New developments could lead to those with diabetes overcoming their body's lack of insulin production.
Last year, the Harvard Stem Cell Institute found a way to create beta cells that could be implanted into mice to produce and release insulin, and a newly released study from the group says they now have discovered a way to protect the beta cells from being attacked by the body’s immune system.
According to an article on cnbc.com, this latest development, a collaboration with MIT and Harvard scientists and researchers, would be a huge leap forward in finding a cure for diabetes, which affects 29.1 million Americans. Diabetes causes a person’s blood sugar level to become too high, and with Type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system kills the beta cells that produce insulin in the pancreas. Type 1 sufferers usually inject insulin as their primary treatment for the symptoms, but there is no cure for the disease.
If this new development is successful in human trials, it could lead to allowing the body to produce its own insulin despite the attacks by the immune system, and effectively amount to a cure for the millions of diabetics across the globe.
Calling the development “an important step forward,” Doug Melton, co-director of Harvard’s Stem Cell Institute, said it shows there may be a way to overcome one of he major hurdles preventing the finding of a cure for type 1 diabetes. Melton, speaking with the Harvard Gazette, added, “We have stem cell-derived beta cells that can provide insulin in a device that appears capable of protecting them from immune attack.”
People that have been diagnosed with diabetes spend an average of $7,900 per year on treatment for the disease, according to the American Diabetes Association, quoting numbers from 2012. Those with the disease spend about 2.3 times as much on health care on average, as they would have if they were not stricken with the malady.
Approximately, 1.25 million Americans suffer from the more serious type 1 diabetes, according to the association, and the group adds the rapidly changing diets of people around the world, including the rise in sugar in their diets, will continue to cause increases in the number of cases diagnosed.
The results of the research were published in the journals Nature Medicine and Nature Biotechnology this week.