Understanding the source of diabetes has eluded scientists for several years now.
The way in which the immune system causes the destruction of precious beta islet cells within the pancreas of type 1 diabetics is usually understood to be the key.
The ultimate objective, which has so far proved evasive, is a remedy for diabetes, which could possibly be readily available for both types of diabetes through stem cell research.
Stem cells are a form of cell that is yet to establish a particular set of qualities. However, what stem cells have in abundance is the possible to turn into a variety of various kinds.
What is stem cell research?
Stem cell research covers the clinical study of these stem cells. Stem cell research enables scientists to grow specific varieties of human cells in the laboratory and research how they behave and connect under different conditions.
Stem cells open a wide spectrum of diabetes research possibilities. In one example of diabetes stem cell research, researchers took cells from human intestine cells and disabled a gene which allowed the cells to produce insulin.
Where do stem cells come from?
Stem cells for the treatment of diabetes are able to come from a variety of sources.
These consist of foetal tissue from:
- The placenta
- Umbilical cord
- Bone marrow
- Blood cells
Also read: Type 1 Diabetes Life Expectancy
Stem cells in the research of type 1 diabetes
For those with type 1 diabetes, routinely injecting themselves with insulin is part and parcel of their lives. This form of treatment hasn’t advanced much for nearly a century, so it will come as excellent news that researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are on the edge of a development. As a study in Nature Medicine exposes, insulin-producing beta cells made from human stem cells have actually been shown to effectively “switch off” diabetes in mice for approximately six months.
Within a healthy person’s pancreas, clusters of beta cells produce insulin in order to counteract rising blood glucose levels. Someone suffering from type 1 diabetes is not able to control their blood sugar levels, as their own body immune system attacks and ruins these insulin-producing cells. Type 1 diabetes, which makes up roughly 10 percent of all diabetes cases, is therefore a type of autoimmune disease, and is presently incurable.
In 2014, a group led by Harvard University made a considerable step in establishing a bonafide remedy. Utilizing human embryonic stem cells, the team caused them into becoming beta cells in large amounts — as much as hundreds of millions at a time, enough to transplant them into a hyperglycemic mouse and enjoy them drastically lower the animal’s blood sugar levels.
Regrettably, just like the mouse’s initial beta cells, its faulty immune system destroyed the new, transplanted beta cells fairly rapidly, so the method didn’t offer lasting advantages. Now, a team at MIT has found a way to conceal these beta cells from the self-destructive body immune system of mice experiencing type 1 diabetes.
From previous research, it was known that it is possible to enclose various transplanted beta cells in alginate gel, a material originated from brown algae. This at first guards the presence of the beta cells from the erring immune system within primates, consisting of humans, but reasonably quickly scar tissue begins to form around these alginate capsules, indicating the immune system has started to damage them.
The MIT researchers decided to customize the chemical structure of the alginate pills in as many different ways as possible to attempt and construct a much better guard for the beta cells. “We made all these derivatives of alginate by connecting different little molecules to the [big molecule] chain,” stated Arturo Vegas, lead author of the study and an accompanying paper in Nature Biotechnology, in a statement. They hoped that one of the 800 alginate derivatives would have “the ability to prevent recognition by the immune system.”
Thankfully, one variation did certainly prove to be efficient, in both mice and nonhuman primates. Known as triazole-thiomorpholine dioxide (TMTD), this variant was shown to be able to hide from leukocyte within hyperglycemic mice with an extremely strong immune system. Following the transplant, these beta cells started to instantly produce insulin, and brought the blood sugar levels down to healthy levels for an exceptional 174 days, a substantial length of time considering their lifespan.
The next stage, of course, is human trials, after a number of more nonhuman primate trials confirm this technique’s effectiveness. The ultimate aim would be to transplant these cells into people struggling with type 1 diabetes, enabling them to produce their own insulin. This would basically cure the disease, and would render routine insulin injections a thing of the past.