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Diabetes charities and organisations across the world have welcomed news that a stem cell study has created insulin using a newly developed process which could some day become an important part of a possible cure.
Stem cell transplants aren’t relatively new when used for potential diabetes treatment. Stem cells are like a blank canvas – they can become almost anything, which is why so much research is being carried out into their medical benefits. We could use stem cells to replace broken nerve endings in patients with damaged spinal cords, use them as treatment for those with sight defects or in burn victims.
In April, a team of scientists at the New York Stem Cell Foundation used skin cells from a Type 1 diabetes patient in order to create stem cells, which have the ability to adapt and become any type of cell in our bodies, so they turned the harvested cells into cells which could produce insulin.
As Type 1 diabetes means that the pancreas doesn’t produce any insulin so any cure or breakthrough treatment will have to include cells which can, to replace the immune system’s harmful cells in the patient that are stopping the pancreas from doing its job.
The best quality about using patient-specific stem cells created from the patient’s skin is that the DNA of the patient is then transmitted in the replacement cells, making it a perfect cloned match. Transplanted cells which exactly match the host’s DNA are more likely to be successful and the treatment has much higher chances of working and even possibly curing the condition.
Doug Melton, from the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, commented on the research findings, and said it was an impressive technical achievement. He said he believes the cells would be useful as a research tool as opposed to a source of transplants. If used for research purposes, the cells could help scientists uncover what triggers Type 1 diabetes which could in turn lead to researchers discovering better effective therapies.