Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is a form of disease that is recorded in about ten percent of people suffering from diabetes. The body produces T cells that attack its own insulin secreting pancreatic islet beta cells. The disease is characterized by a lack of insulin secretion, with a relatively sudden onset, obvious symptoms (frequent urination, thirst, increased appetite, weight loss) and a tendency to ketoacidosis (ketones in the presence of high blood sugar + blood + acidosis). This form of disease can be seen in all ages, but particularly characterizes patients whose disease begins before 30 years. Below this age almost all patients are insulin dependent. Therefore patients require daily insulin injections to maintain an adequate insulin level and proper glucose levels.
A new method published in BioMed Central’s open access journal BMC Medicine , uses stem cells from cord blood in order to re-educate the patient’s faulty T cells and therefore regain the lost pancreatic function leading to a reduced need of insulin injections.
Stem Cell Educator therapy is a technique that uses immobilized cord blood stem cells (harvested from healthy patients) over which, lymphocytes separated from a patient suffering from diabetes are passed. After this procedure, which generally lasts about three hours, the re-educated lymphocytes are injected back to the patient. Evolution of patients was then monitored and checked at four, twelve, twenty-four and forty weeks after therapy.
C peptide is produced by the pancreas as a result of proteolytic cleavage of proinsulin into insulin. This peptide is important because it is secreted in equal amounts as insulin. Unlike insulin, C peptide is not degraded in the liver. For this reason C peptide can indicate more precisely the insulin secretion of the pancreas.
By twelve weeks after the initial treatment all patients presented improved levels of C peptide. This encouraging result was also noted after twenty-four weeks and was maintained until the end of the study. This result translates into a reduced need of insulin injections of the patients included in the study. Simultaneously glycosylated hemoglobin value also decreased for study participants but not for patients in the control group.
Dr Yong Zhao, from University of Illinois at Chicago, who led the multi-centre research, explained, “We also saw an improved autoimmune control in these patients. Using this technique, the percentage of regulatory T lymphocytes raises in the patient’s blood, other immune function markers are improved like TGF-beta1, and pancreatic islet beta cells are able to recover “.