Treating Diabetes with Stem Cells

Treating Diabetes with Stem Cells

Diabetes is a group of metabolic diseases in which there are high blood sugar levels over a prolonged period. Untreated, diabetes can cause many complications.

There are two main types of diabetes mellitus. Diabetes is due to either the pancreas not producing enough insulin (Type I DM), or the cells of the body not responding properly to the insulin produced (Type II DM).

Type 1 diabetes: results from your body’s failure to generate insulin, and currently requires the individual to inject insulin. (Likewise known as insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, IDDM for short, and juvenile diabetes)- Cell therapy to stop immune cells from destroying insulin producing pancreatic islet cells. The usual symptoms that are associated with Type 1 diabetes can include: Polydipsia (constant thirst), polyuria (excessive urination), polyphagia (constant hunger), weight loss, dry mouth and fatigue. A diagnosis of Type 1 results in the destruction of beta cells in the patient’s pancreas. Other known complications for type 1 diabetes include heart disease, diabetic retinopathy, diabetic neuropathy and kidney disease. Type 1 diabetes is especially dangerous for women who have a 42% higher risk of mortality as compared to men. The average life expectancy for type 1 diabetics is less than 11 years for men and less than 13 years for females.

Type 2 diabetes: results from insulin resistance, a condition wherein cells are not able to use insulin appropriately, sometimes coupled with a complete insulin deficiency. – Type 2 is often an acquired disease and if caught early is a very treatable condition at the regeneration center. Long-term risks of having diabetes include retinopathy (loss of vision), diabetic nephropathy which leads to kidney failure, peripheral neuropathy ( foot ulcers that lead to amputations or charcot joints ), and autonomic neuropathy that causes genitourinary, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular symptoms with sexual dysfunction. Patients diagnosed with diabetes also report increased occurrences of peripheral arterial disease (PAD),atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease and cerebrovascular disease. Other complications include Hypertension and severe abnormalities of lipoprotein metabolism. Many patients can also impair insulin secretion because of pharmaceutical medications they are taking. These medications do not directly cause diabetes, but they may might lead individuals to become insulin resistant.

Gestational Diabetes: is when pregnant women, who’ve never had diabetes before, have a high blood glucose level while being pregnant. It may precede development of type 2 DM.- We currently cannot treat Gestational diabetes with stem cell therapy.

FPG, fasting plasma glucose
HNF, hepatocyte nuclear factor
GAD, glutamic acid decarboxylase
GDM, gestational diabetes
GCT, glucose challenge test
IFG, impaired fasting glucose
MODY, maturity-onset diabetes (young)
IGT impaired glucose tolerance

Can Stem Cells Cure Diabetes?

At this stage, cures for Type 1 diabetes or gestational diabetes are very very low probability. There is a genetic component of the disease that will require gene therapy to reprogram the cells from reverting back to their compromised states however these solutions are just in the clinical trials stage and have not been approved for clinical applications. Type 2 Diabetes T2D however is usually treatable and reversible if caught early enough before it starts effecting other organs/systems in the body. Often time, patients simply ignore the disease and try to manage the symptoms using traditional diabetes medication (Metformin,Thiazolidinediones,DPP-4 inhibitors,Meglitinides), change of diet and/or regular insulin therapy. If left untreated, complications often occur and can include:

Foot Complications / Ulcers
Kidney Disease (Nephropathy)
Ketones & DKA (Ketoacidosis)
Ulcerative colitis and crohn’s disease – IBD
High Blood Pressure & Hypertension ( leads to heart disease,eye problems )
Brain Strokes
HHNS
Gastroparesis

Currently, the available treatment (medicines, diet, insulin injection and exercise) can control blood sugar but cannot cure diabetes.

Over the past several years, doctors have attempted to cure diabetes via transplanting functional insulin-producing beta-islet cells and pancreas from the donor.

However, the requirement for steroid immunosuppressant therapy to prevent rejection of the pancreatic cells increases the metabolic demand on insulin-producing cells and eventually they may exhaust their capacity to produce insulin and also shown a deleterious effect on pancreas cell and shown a less successful result.

At present, stem cell therapy has shown promising results for diabetes mellitus because Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs) are known to be capable of releasing growth factors contributing to an increase in angiogenesis and stabilisation of the vasculature and to enhance proliferation of pancreatic beta-islet cells.

They have also an immunomodulatory function which stops the immune attack by secreting anti-inflammatory cytokines (IL-10, TGF-beta and IL-1). On the other hand, stem cell will transform itself to insulin-producing pancreatic cells that will replace pancreas with new cells. Thus offer a promising therapeutic potential for treating diabetes.

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