Possible fix for diabetes?
In people who suffer from from type I diabetes, the beta cells of the pancreas that normally produce insulin are destroyed by the patient’s overactive immune system. Without insulin, the cells of the body cannot take up glucose and they starve. Patients with type I diabetes require insulin injection several times a day for their entire lives. The only current cure is a pancreatic transplant from a recently deceased donor, but the demand for transplants far outweighs the supply. While adult stem cells have not yet been found in the pancreas, scientists have made progress transforming embryonic stem cells into insulin-producing cells. Combining beta-cell transplants with methods to “fix” the patient’s immune system-including chemotherapy to destroy malfunctioning immune system cells and blood transplants to replenish healthy white blood cells-could offer great hope for many people suffering with type 1 diabetes.