Stem Cell Breakthrough Puts Type 1 Diabetes Cure In Reach

By Carl Engelking | October 10, 2014 1:35 pm

diabetes

Harvard scientists have announced a breakthrough that could eventually allow millions of diabetics to shed the yoke of daily insulin injections.

It took over 15 years of trial and error, but researcher Douglas Melton and his team have discovered a method to transform human embryonic stem cells into insulin-producing cells which can then be injected into the pancreas. The discovery has generated a new wave of momentum in the field, with research labs across the country already working to replicate and build upon Melton’s results.

“I think we’ve shown the problem can be solved,” Melton told National Geographic Thursday.

Building the Recipe

The researchers developed a 30-day, six-step process that transforms embryonic stem cells into pancreatic beta cells, the same sugar-regulating cells that are destroyed by the immune system of people with type 1 diabetes. The new cells can read the levels of sugars that enter the body after, say, a meal, and secrete the perfect dose of insulin to balance sugar levels.

Other researchers have had some success harvesting beta cells from cadavers and transplanting them into people with diabetes, but this method can’t round up enough of those cells to have a lasting effect.

Melton’s method produces millions of the insulin-secreting cells, which were then fed through a catheter to the kidney capsules of 37 diabetic mice.

“We can cure their diabetes right away — in less than 10 days,” Melton told NPR.

When the mice were later given glucose injections,  73 percent showed increased levels of human insulin in their bloodstream, indicating that the beta cells were doing their job.

Taking it to the Next Level

As with many medical breakthroughs, Melton said they are still a few years away from putting this method to work in humans. One of the primary obstacles to overcome is to find a way to mask transplanted cells from an immune system that’s out to destroy them.

Susan Solomon, a chief of the New York Stem Cell Foundation, expects diabetes research to shift toward scaling Melton’s process, and overcoming the immune system problem.

“If you don’t solve the autoimmune attack that killed those cells in the first place you are basically doing stupid mouse tricks as they say,” Solomon told the Washington Post.

And with an estimated 30,000 Americans of all ages diagnosed with type 1 diabetes every year, the urgency of improving these mouse tricks is real.

 

Photo credit:  /Shutterstock

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  • Michele From Ohio

    This is such fantastic news! Type 1 killed my BiL, it is such a horrible disease.

  • Metalhead Nick

    I think that’s great and stem cell research is extremely important. At the same time though, it is not surprising that someone was able to use stem cells to create new pancreatic cells. That is what’s great about stem cells. In this case though, it seems that the real kicker is to find a way to keep the immune system from destroying them. The stem cells can help people already suffering the ravages of the disease, but figuring autoimmune issue would be able to prevent it from the get go. We could cure it before it really starts. As interesting as this is it’s kind of like saying “yes, we have a temporary cure, but are no closer to solving the bigger issue. Once we figure that out, we will have a real cure.” The urgency to figure that out is the same as it already was. Like I said, I think it is great research, but does not solve the larger problem, to solve the autoimmune issue, which they kind of gloss over, ie the fact that no one really knows what causes type I diabetes. The cure really doesn’t seem that much more in reach.

    • Angie Houze

      Does it even occur to you that babies are being killed to get these stem cells?? I have type 1 diabetes and I would not use this “cure” because those embryos were murdered! Selfish bastards!

      • Hudson

        Obviuosly you don’t read Discover very often. Otherwise you’d know stem cells come from a lot of sources, not just “killed babies.” I suspect you’re a religious fanatic.

        • Ranweiler

          Then please explain to me how embryonic stem cells, as used in this “cure” according to the passage, are not harvested from aborted fetuses, a.k.a. human babies with all the genetic material and proof of a living human being. Please. And please tell me what the root wood “embryo” means. It doesn’t take a religious fanatic to recognize common sense such as a living human in a woman’s body is in fact human in every way possible. It is simple proof.

          • garywainright@comcast.net

            It is important to remember that the experiments described in the article were performed on mice. Hopefully, the knowledge gained from these experiments will be transferrable to induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). These stem cells are harvested from within the body of the recipient of the cells. Since iPSCs come from the body of the person who receives them, there is no risk of rejection. Perhaps even more importantly to this discussion, they do not involve the deaths of any fetuses. Let’s hope these two lines of research progress rapidly and eventually merge to create stem cells that do not come from fetuses and can be induced to create Islets of Langerhans cells that are identical to native pancreatic cells and therefore non-rejectable.

          • Ranweiler

            I sure hope so!

          • xX_JMO_Xx

            Is a chicken egg a chicken? No didn’t think so.

          • Ranweiler

            Yes actually, a chicken egg is in every way a chicken. You would have to be blind to not see it in their genes. Any fetus of any animal is that animal. Their is no reason it shouldn’t be. Like it or not, abortion is the murder of a baby of its species. People just dress it up as the word fetus to feel less crappy about it. People say give the woman a choice, but what about the living child? People who abort children are monsters, no matter the circumstances. They kill their own children.

          • Metalhead Nick

            10-20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage, and 30-50% of fertilized eggs die before implantation. Did god abort the fertilized eggs? Are they human? God would be the greatest abortionist ever. What about my sperm, it’s alive, has human DNA, are they people? Cuz I just aborted a few million down the drain last night. Were they human? Do you feed eggs chicken feed? An egg is in every way a chicken, no you are treating a potential as an actual. If genetics is all that matters, if I kill my twin brother, did I commit suicide? What about people with illnesses such as Down’s syndrome that carry extra chromosomes, are they not human then?

          • Ranweiler

            I’m not talking about miscarriages as they were accidents. I am not going to get in an all out religious war based on the ideology of a free – willed universe either (premature implantational death). Spermsis is added to an egg to form a zygote. Zygotes are children, not the stuff used to make them. That’s like saying an egg is a cake if it hasn’t been cooked into it yet. Gametes are merely an ingredient to form a human. Twins are not the same as they are not of the same consciencseness. No there is not potential, only an actual growing living human being created with all the ingredients. I do not understand how chromosomal disorders effect your species. And please refrain from sharing you private actions on a respectable news site. It is vile. Understand what I am proving. Thank you!

          • Metalhead Nick

            Exactly. You don’t want to discuss why god aborts embryos. You call it an accident. And yes, it is a potential. That’s why you shouldn’t tell people you’re expecting during the first few months. Cuz it might not be there a few months later. That’s why in roman times, they didn’t recognize a child as a person until they were like a year old, because so many of them died. I know a lot of tree huggers that don’t seem to care when you step on an acorn. Cuz it’s not a tree. And vileness is in the we of the beholder. I think it’s vile for anyone, especially a man to tell a woman what they should do with their bodies. Or to force moralistic garbage on others. That’s the thing about pro-choice. There’s a choice. It is not forced upon someone loosely based on shepherds tales. Thou shalt not kill is stuffed in a book surrounded by all kinds of foul, derisive, perversion. They decide themselves. And no one, let alone someone who cannot have an abortion should have anything to do with what is a very personal decision. Murder itself is a matter of perspective. Is the death penalty murder? Kill a man and youre a murder, kill many and you’re a conquerer, kill them all and you’re a god. And seriously would you treat an egg like a chicken? In what ways would you do that? And vile, no, tasteless perhaps, but I’m not going to deny what pretty much everyone does too. What makes that vile? The church says so. And why, because it is wasting potential life. These things are not terribly dissimilar, and the basis for judgment against them is the same book. Further, I don’t really think my analogy is any worse than some of the stuff I read on discovers rofl blog…

          • Ranweiler

            Your argument is a repetitive thesis with no counter. It has been debunked in every way and yet you still wish to continue. Just stop please. I have no interest in repetition. It is a waste of time. I do not argue with repetition for I would be repetitive. Goodnight sir.

          • Metalhead Nick

            How so, you have not explained why potentials are actual at all. All you’ve said is an egg is a chicken. And restated that. You haven’t said anything really. Zygotes are mindless soulless cells that mindlessly divide. It is not a child. You emphatically stated what you believe and that is all. Claims to emperical knowledge are hard enough to defend, but you’re making universal moralistic statements is untenable. You said an egg is a chicken and that’s in it’s genes. Twins have the same genes, so you say the difference is consciousness. Eggs and chickens do not have the same consciousness, nor embryos and adults. The only reason I’m being repetitive is because you are not answering anything. And you brought consciousness to the table as a differentiating factor…

          • Metalhead Nick

            There’s also a huge difference between saying both zygotes an spemazoa are potentially human than to say an egg is a cake. The sperm needs one step to become a zygote. And a sperm is decidedly human (or whatever animal). An egg can potentially become part of many things. A spermazoa cannot (well not on a normal sense…:-) ). And the egg doesn’t make a cake by uniting with the other ingredients on it’s own. Eggs don’t carry anything that make them identifiable as cake. Sperm is identifiable to whatever species it belongs to. And this is a science site. Yes it covers the news…science in the news. I suspect your reason to not want to discuss free will v determinism (which I don’t either – I think I had set up a god v no god) is because you’re trying to avoid evoking god on a science blog. That is also why you make silly straw men rather than answer directly. You’re trying to avoid the potential v actual debate entirely as well. Please let me know though if there is one instance you would treat an egg like a chicken -any. This is making me hungry, maybe I should pick up some eggs from the dairy aisle…

          • Metalhead Nick

            Guess you are done. Why not go post about the SIMS somewhere instead of trying to spread your intolerance here.

          • Metalhead Nick

            So you’re not going to address the fact that you believe that an embryo is human because it has a soul -from conception on – and that most fertilized eggs don’t become babies because god kills them, including miscarriage which you said is a mistake. Who’s mistake, god’s? Why would god this? Calling people monsters, no matter what the circumstances, and you call me vile.

          • ScienceCompelsYou

            Yeah, but who cares? I mean honestly we leave African cannibals alone? Or is eating someone more appealing to you than dead babies? Medicine will not continue to devlope if we don’t get over our opinions and stick to facts, it’s still working. Beyond anything else, those kids, are saving other KIDS! The majority of Type One Diabetics are diagnosed under the age of 12, But its okay for them to suffer right? They were already born, they’ve spent enough time on earth to suit you? So them dying is hunky dorey but unborn babies, never! That being said YEY DEAD BABIES!

        • Angie Houze

          Re-read the article. It specifically says embryonic stem cells. Do you not know what an embryo is?

          • xX_JMO_Xx

            Is a chicken egg a chicken? Nope. Crack it open and throw it in a frying pan and have an omelet.

        • Angie Houze

          Directly quoting the article here, a simple copy and paste: “It took over 15 years of trial and error, but researcher Douglas Melton and his team have discovered a method to transform human embryonic stem cells into insulin-producing cells which can then be injected into the pancreas”

          • Hudson

            There are over 300 “lines” of stem cells kept and monitored by the NIH for use in medical research.

          • Angie Houze

            But where did these “lines” come from? Killed human embryos. My point exactly

        • NoDrama Here

          Lol very true

      • nicksr

        That is such a horrible lie! Get your facts straight.

      • RO

        I am still with you on your ideals regarding stem cell use. When I got to the part about name-calling, it’s just a form of verbal abuse. How I have different thoughts as to what type of person you are. Sorry

        • RO

          One other thing is that being against killing babies, stem cells don’t come from killing babies. Just a fact.

          • RO

            At least not all of them.

          • RO

            Sorry about my scattered thoughts. I’m getting old. LOL

      • Metalhead Nick

        Wow, you people never cease to amaze me. The embryos died for whatever reason they did. They are dead, why not use them to serve a practical purpose. Are you against organ donation? They were not specifically killed for their stem cells. And whoever brought up the cord blood is correct. You can save it for your kids if you want, or donate it to research. This is not an abortion thing, although I do support Planned Parenthood and trust me I’ve made that trip to the clinic (for support, I am a guy). To me it’s like treating acorns as if they were oak trees. Just because something can become something doesn’t make it that thing already. I don’t really want to get into all that. What I really wonder is why are you reading Discover anyways? It’s science for the curious and you’re not curious. You have all the answers. Go read your Shepard myths from thousands of years ago (which are rife with all manner of foulness) while the rest of us deal with the actual world we are confronted with. If gods so great why won’t he cure your diabetes? He supposedly cures cancers patients. He must hate diabetics, never cured them. And amputees. He refuses to help them either. I mean god must have wanted you to have diabetes right? Anyways my only point was that saying you can cure a disease should mean that it does not return as soon as the treatment is done. They need to work on the autoimmune issue. It is people like you who stand in the way of all human progress, yet still reap the benefits of our advancement. It sickens me actually. You sicken me.

      • xX_JMO_Xx

        Embryos are not babies, anymore than a chicken egg is a chicken. Unless the embryo is implanted in a uterus, there is no way it can ever be grown into a human. A fertilized egg by itself, a human does not make.

      • ScienceCompelsYou

        Then don’t get it? Its not up too you, It’s my choice, our choice. You think its easy? I can’t serve my country, I can’t live without my insulin. I’ll lose my eye sight, my toes, and eventually my life. So honestly screw those dead babies, its my life. I love kids, but if it will save my life, Ill do whatever it takes. Its not your choice, you can judge me, hate me and call me sick and twisted, but your not the one who suffers. Less humane things have been done in medicine, get over it, because you will never stop medicine, it is science, it is true, and not even god can change that.

  • nouradin

    awesome , subhanallah ! let me inform my beloved friend who type 1 diabetic.

    • John Doe

      Allah had nothing to do with it…praise the infidel/secular scientists.

      Meanwhile in the mideast….

  • Elijia

    I am a type 1 Diabetic of 12 years. I am super excited to hear about this! I hope to god this doesn’t get shut down. Insulin is expensive, and I was turned off the idea of having children, because I did not want to pass on my recessive gene. I did not want to bring a child into such suffering.

    The fact that a treatment is under way is marvelous! I feel such a weight lifted!

  • Nelson Ocampo

    Good news for humanity.

  • Rene Almiron

    I wonder how the researchers may guide the stem celkls to differenciate into pancreatic beta cells and not into alpha cells or exocrine pancreatic cells… Also, why they inject the cells under the mice’s kidney capsule?

  • John Doe

    “stupid mouse tricks”…lol nice to see that scientists have a sense of humor. Hopefully they will solve the underlying problem with the immune system.

    Just goes to show again that stem cells are pretty much the silver bullet in solving many of our medical problems. I hope they can use it to cure baldness too someday.

  • Kendra Hall

    For over 35 yes I have been a type 1diabetic and pray to God that the scientists come up w a way to make this work for all of us who suffer from this difficult disease. I am only afraid that the pharmacudical companies discretely stop or hinder the scientists from getting a cure on the market in a timely manner due to all of the money that they are making off of the diabetics out there including my newly diagnosed daughter. Does anyone out there have any ideas out there to get this on the market faster and keep the pharmacudical companies happy???

    • unknown

      god sucks

      • unknown

        God doesn’t suck….he allows bad things to happen because of something called free will…. when adam and eve decided to sin….this allowed evil into the world including diseases. God doesn’t suck….HE gives US free will to do what ever we want….thats a merciful God to me

  • http://allthingsareyours.wordpress.com/ Heather Goodman

    Can they do with stem cells that are NOT embryonic so people who don’t want to participate in the abortion industry can benefit from this cure? Stem cells are stem cells; they should be able to use any type to do this.

    • Richard

      Not from aborted babies. Look up umbilical cord blood stem cell research. It’s gotten as or during the birth of children.

  • Angie Houze

    Um, no, it’s not a lie. You cannot harvest living stem cells from something that is not alive. The embryos were therefore alive to begin with, then killed to harvest their cells. But if u want to kill an innocent life just to tove as you please then that’s on you and God will judge you in the end.

    • Rich Egeland

      how much research into stem cell research have you done?

    • Metalhead Nick

      Again, killed for the purpose of harvesting their stem cells. Even if the stem cells are from aborted fetuses, stem cell research has nothing to do with why they were aborted. And god is not going to judge anyone. God doesn’t do anything. Ever. There is no such thing. At all. Instead of talking to is why don’t you go talk to your invisible friend…

    • Artguy

      Hopefully they’ll come up with a brain transplant
      soon, Angie. You’re in need of one.

  • Angie Houze

    Re-read the article. It specifically says embryonic stem cells. Do you not know what an embryo is?

    • Richard

      They are gathered from the sack using cord blood. They are donated by the mothers, after the baby is born healthy and alive.

    • Metalhead Nick

      Do you? Please enlighten us.

    • sleepvark

      Angie, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the one true deity, says that you are wrong. Anyway, they aren’t babies till they’re born. My silly beliefs trump yours any day. So there.

  • Angie Houze

    Directly quoting the article here, a simple copy and paste: “It took over 15 years of trial and error, but researcher Douglas Melton and his team have discovered a method to transform human embryonic stem cells into insulin-producing cells which can then be injected into the pancreas”

  • Richard

    This type of research uses ” cord blood” from the sack or “afterbirth” and NOT FROM DE AD BABIES. It’s donated in most cases by knowledgeable mothers and sometimes frozen and saved for a future emergency. Propaganda has gotten the best of us. I think hearts, are in the right place even though the information is not. No stem cells are legally gathered from the killing of babies.

    • Metalhead Nick

      She can’t there is no section on stem cells in the bible, which I doubt she’s bothered to read cover to cover. But that won’t stop her circular logic.

  • Cosmo Moon

    Does anyone know when the cure will be released? A few months, years?

  • Sara Kafri

    I hope that when the cure is a reality, normal people will be able to afford it. My son has had type 1 since he was 4 years old. He’s 17 now. I would give anything to see him live his adult life to the fullest and for this disease to someday just be a bad memory.

  • sang kenny

    No doctor or any BS program ever worked. After being a diabetic for 12 years, you can cure yourself as I did. But best of all to report to you today, no more pills and no more injections for I am totally self cured of my illness. And my weight is now finally under control.

    4d81agowr4i-5w2lo

  • NoDrama Here

    I would love to try ithe sign me up

  • Anne Berube

    Stem cell treatment really cure diabetes. I am one a type 1 diabetes patient. I remember the time when I am still suffering on it. and one of my friends told me about this company named Placidway who can help me with my problems on diabetes. I tried to contact their personnel and they introduced to me this stem cell treatment. I gave it a try and luckily I was cured. Hopefully, this scientist will discover more medication for diabetes because it is not easy if you have this.

  • Sammy Gill

    A huge humanity is awaiting this revolution to take place – I hope many man lives will be saved if we can handle pancreas !

  • Hagenaar

    Dear Kendra, on behalf of me and my colleagues around the world: we will never stop before the cure to diabetes is found!

  • Kalbolaryo

    What if the autoimmune is not responsible. Some scientists and doctors says high body acidity can damage organs and pancreas beta cells. If that is the case this syatem will work. Just make the body pH balanced.

  • chickyd570

    Iam insulin diabetic since 1998,had Cryptococal meningitis,docs used amphotericin to help me live. It “KILLED” my pancreas. Can MY Pancreas be regenerated? Using MY OWN STEM CELLS? ,also,in 2009, type 1-2 diabetic, 2015 -type 1,also in 2015,JEFFERSON HOSPITAL ,PHILADELPHI,Pa, found a growth (NOT) cancerous near my right kidney, can stem cells from this growth ,be used to grow Pancreas stem cells?

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