The Cure – devices, transplants, stem cells and stopping beta cell attackers

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I’m a proud techno-geek.  As a result, when I think about diabetes I tend to gravitate to technology oriented device solutions.  An Artificial Pancreas, a non-invasive blood glucose meter and interchangeable/inter-operable pumps and meters.

And, I like data, lots of data.

While technology is very important, the holy grail of diabetes research is not the future medical device with Star Trek capability unless it is able to promote and bring about a cure.

Pancreas and islet transplants have benefit individuals but have not yet provided a treatment that is worth the risk for most individuals.  And, even if the risks were mitigated, the lack of suitable donors is another impediment.

To me, the ideal is the development of implantable islets from adult stem cells take from the same individual who will receive them.  Rejection of the islets would be minimized and the us of immunosuppressive drugs, I would guess, could be minimize.  In short, Autologous Stem Cell Therapy Transplant requiring no immunosuppression

The good news – this was demonstrated in 2009, at least on a limited scale:

After a mean follow-up of 29.8 months following autologous nonmyeloablative HSCT in patients with newly diagnosed type 1 DM, C-peptide levels increased significantly and the majority of patients achieved insulin independence with good glycemic control.

This seems all to medical and sterile but it really hit home when I read the post of one participant’s mother:

I can’t believe October 30th will be the anniversary year of my son’s  “Autologous Stem Cell Transplant” (his own stem cells).

October test results, A1C= 6.8, it was 6.3 in June.  Antipancreatic Islet Cells are Negative.  The C-Peptide not done in October, but in June it came back with < 0.05.  There are a couple more follow up labs coming up.  He continues on Novolog insulin via pump therapy.   We were reducing his insulin requirements. However, this month we have increased it and the sensitivity ratio.  IAA=55.   I was told puberty or insulin resistance may be influencing his glucose control.


There’s also stem cells from umbilical cords described in this video

I haven’t even scratched the surface … and perhaps spoke too soon because even these are not the ultimate because they don’t address the underlying autoimmune element of diabetes.

Through recent investigative medical studies, issued by researchers at the Dana Falber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School Department of Pathology, a new advancement has appeared that just might help break the ever-growing cycle of autoimmune attacks that occur within the body destining individuals with life-long illnesses such as lupus, cancer and even type 1 diabetes. A connection has been made between the function of cells and the reduction of autoimmune attacks.

We’re hoping scientists develop treatments cures for autoimmune diseases:

In the body, there is an amount of white blood cells known as CD8+ Treg cells. These cells exist to help fight against bacteria in the body, they not only kill an infected virus they can also kill tumor cells. CD8+ Treg cells have the ability to counteract autoimmune attacks on the body, which allow cells to be increased through a chemical process, all the while, reducing antibodies that attack tissue within an individual’s body. Ultimately, CD8+ cells control autoantibody formation, which is the creation of antibodies that end up attacking the body’s own tissues.

Now, imagine if the Type 1 Diabetes is caught early, while the body is still producing insulin, and the autoimmune pirates are reigned in. This is exactly what Stephen Gitelman, head of UCSF, is trying to do:

In this first prevention trial Gitelman is targeting immune cells that attack beta cells. He is evaluating a humanized form of a monoclonal antibody directed against the cell-surface protein called CD3. Humanized antibodies are expected to have fewer side effects than antibodies developed from animals. The CD3 protein is a marker found on the T cells that attack beta cells in type 1 diabetes.


Researchers are hoping the antibody knocks out destructive T cells and permits non-destructive T cells to take their place. The treatment, with the brand name Thymoglobulin, has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a treatment to prevent organ rejection in kidney transplant patients, for whom it has become a standard treatment. Thymoglobulin also has been used to treat other autoimmune diseases.

More … later. Thanks for reading.


  1. [...] a Comment Stem cell research is a promising component of what we hope will bring about a cure-like therapy for diabetes.  It may also provide models that enable the unraveling of Type 1 Diabetes and the [...]

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