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Stem Cells May Stop Type 1 Diabetes

Blood Stem Cell Transplant Leaves Diabetes Patients Insulin Free -- So Far

Early Results, Enormous Promise continued...

The treatment didn't work in the first patient, probably because he had too few beta cells when he started.

But the next 14 carefully selected patients did much better. All were treated soon after diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. All eventually stopped needing insulin -- for one to 35 months.

In an editorial accompanying the study, University of Miami diabetes researcher Jay S. Skyler, MD, warns against "false hope based on the preliminary nature of the study results."

Skyler warns that much work remains to be done:

  • The study did not include a control group. This makes it impossible to know what would have happened if similar patients had received no treatment -- an important factor, given that soon after diagnosis, many type 1 diabetes patients enter a "honeymoon" period of remission.
  • It's simply too soon to know how well the treatment worked, or whether patients eventually will do better than untreated patients.
  • It's not at all clear whether the treatment works because it stops beta cell destruction or whether it allows beta cells to regenerate.

Skyler also notes that this treatment isn't the only cellular treatment now being developed for type 1 diabetes. Other treatments include infusions of regulatory cells to reorient autoimmune cells, umbilical cord cells, embryonic or adult stem cells, and bone marrow transplant.

"As these further studies confirm and build on the results of Voltarelli and colleagues -- the time may indeed be coming for starting to reverse and prevent type 1 diabetes mellitus," Skyler suggests.

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