Medical breakthrough could lead to diabetes cure

By Efrosini Costa

Medical breakthrough could lead to diabetes cure
Scientists are one step closer to finding a cure for type 1 diabetes after groundbreaking study.

Type 1 diabetes is caused by the destruction of cells that control blood sugar by the body’s own immune system.

A research team at Harvard University has been successful in using stem cells to produce hundreds of millions of the blood-sugar-control cells in a lab.

Early trials on mice showed the cells could treat the disease, leading experts to describe the breakthrough as a “tremendous step forward ” for a cure.

The trial was led by Professor Doug Melton who began the sure for a cure after his son was diagnosed 23 years ago. He has since had a daughter who also developed the illness.

Melton is attempting to replace approximately 150 million missing beta cells using the stem cell technology, the study, published in the journal Cell, explained.

He found the right combination of chemicals to transform the embryonic stem cells into functioning beta cells.

The cells which pump out insulin, which helps control blood sugar levels in the body, are known as beta cells.

When the body’s own immune system turns against beta cells, destroying them, it leaves people with the potentially fatal illness because they cannot regulate their blood sugar levels.

The lab-made beta cells were shown to produce insulin  and control blood sugar levels for several months.

“It was gratifying to know that we could do something that we always thought was possible,” Dr Melton said of the breakthrough.

“We are now just one pre-clinical step away from the finish line.”

He stressed that more research is needed before this could become a cure, as beta cells injected into a person they would face an immune assault and be destroyed.

Type 1 diabetes differ greatly from the far more common type 2, which is more largely due to poor diet and lifestyle.


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