Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier
WebMD

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine
WebMD

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion
    WebMD

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community
    WebMD

    Community

    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Diabetes Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

Stem Cells May Stop Type 1 Diabetes

Blood Stem Cell Transplant Leaves Diabetes Patients Insulin Free -- So Far
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

April 10, 2007 -- After transplants of their own blood stem cells, 14 of 15 type 1 diabetes patients are insulin free for one to 36 months -- and counting.

In type 1 diabetes, the body can't make the insulin it needs, and so insulin injections are necessary for treatment. After their transplants, most of the patients in the study became free from insulin injections.

It's the first time the treatment has been used in type 1 diabetes, although it's helped patients with other autoimmune diseases. The early success is encouraging -- but nobody is using the word "cure."

It's not yet clear exactly how the stem cell treatment works, or even whether it truly works at all. And it's far from clear how long treated patients will remain insulin free.

"Very encouraging results were obtained in a small number of patients with early onset disease," conclude researchers Júlio C. Voltarelli, MD, PhD, of the University of São Paulo, Brazil, and colleagues.

The researchers warn that longer follow-up of trial patients, further biological studies, and, finally, a clinical trial will be needed to confirm that the treatment works. Their report appears in the April 11 issue of TheJournal of the American Medical Association.

Early Results, Enormous Promise

In type 1 diabetes, haywire immune cells attack the insulin-making beta cells in the pancreas. This means people with type 1 diabetes can't make the insulin they need and require the use of supplemental insulin. The goal of the treatment is to get rid of these bad immune cells and to replace them with immature cells that have not yet learned bad habits -- thus stopping beta-cell damage and restoring proper immune function.

The treatment is called autologous nonmyeloablative hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. It's a four-step process:

  1. Soon after diagnosis of type 1 diabetes -- while a person still has plenty of beta cells left -- the patient is given drugs that stimulate production of blood stem cells.
  2. The blood stem cells are removed from the patient's body and frozen for later use.
  3. The patient is given drugs and antibodies that kill off immune cells, leaving other blood cells intact.
  4. The blood stem cells are reinfused into the patient.

Today on WebMD

Diabetic tools
Symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and more.
woman flexing muscles
10 strength training exercises.
 
Blood sugar test
12 practical tips.
Tom Hanks
Stars living with type 1 or type 2.
 
kenneth fujioka, md
Video
Can Vinegar Treat Diabetes
Article
 
Middle aged person
Tool
jennie brand miller
Video
 

Prediabetes How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Article
type 2 diabetes
Slideshow
 
food fitness planner
Tool
feet
Slideshow