Type 1 diabetes is commonly seen in children and adolescents, although it can be diagnosed during adulthood. The condition occurs when the pancreas produces little to no insulin. This key hormone is essential for helping blood sugar enter the cells, where it can be used for energy. Having insufficient insulin therefore causes sugar to build up in the bloodstream.
Just 5-10% of diabetes cases are type 1, and both forms currently have no cure. Treatment is thus focused on managing symptoms through healthy lifestyle practices, such as eating well and using medication to control blood sugar. Recently, however, a new option for treating — and potentially even curing — type 1 diabetes has been discovered: stem cell therapy.
How Does Stem Cell Therapy Treat Type 1 Diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes occurs when an individual’s immune system mistakenly destroys beta cells in the pancreas, which are responsible for producing insulin. When blood sugar spikes as a result, it can cause serious complications such as organ and nerve damage. Patients are directed to use artificial insulin via daily injections, but this doesn’t replace the beta cells.
Researchers have begun exploring a new possibility for treatment: instead of using artificial insulin to replicate the role of the beta cells, why not try to replace the cells themselves? Because stem cells have the ability to self-renew and transform into specialized stem cells, it’s likely that they could mature into beta cells. Early results are promising and show that the therapy has been well-tolerated in patients.
In addition to potentially reducing or eliminating the need for artificial insulin, stem cell therapy can also benefit diabetes patients by repairing damage caused by the disease. For instance, it could be used as a way to prompt healing in ulcers, tissue and organ damage, and other complications caused by type 1 diabetes.
As always, patients should speak with their physicians before starting or stopping any treatment. For now, regenerative medicine is a fairly new approach to treating the chronic illness. Down the road, however, we may very well see stem cell therapy become a standard treatment modality for individuals with type 1 diabetes.
This post was written by Becky Palmer, a medical professional at Stemedix Inc. At Stemedix we offer Regenerative Medicine, also known as Stem Cell Therapy in Tampa, this therapy naturally acts to rebuild and regenerate neural tissues that are lost from the progression of all different types of diseases.