With the improvement of people’s living standard, the incidence of diabetes is increasing day by day. This poses a huge threat to everyone’s health, as the statistics show in the number of people with diabetes.
As is known to all, of the two main types of diabetes, type I diabetes and type II diabetes have huge differences in pathogenesis and treatment, and type I diabetes is more serious. Because type I diabetes is caused by a decrease in the function of B cells in the islets of the pancreas and a lack of insulin production, oral drugs are usually ineffective and require lifelong insulin injections. What is more frightening is that the blood sugar of type I diabetes fluctuates greatly. Once it is not well controlled, it is very prone to ketoacidosis and other serious complications, which is life-threatening and more effective treatment plans are urgently needed.
A breakthrough study titled “How stem cells repair refractory Type I diabetes” published in the international journal 《Nature》 has brought better treatment options and hope to these patients who are chronically dependent on insulin.
According to the latest research, people with type 1 diabetes are currently treated with insulin, but their life expectancy is also 12 years lower than average. The key feature of stem cells is their ability to differentiate into other cell types, so if the stem cells can be successfully differentiated into islet B cells, they will be able to successfully repair the refractory type 1 diabetes and give patients the hope of a complete cure.
Insulin has been one of the most transformative discoveries in medicine. The successful isolation of the hormone in 1921 helped make Type I diabetes (T1D, hereafter referred to as TID) a treatable condition rather than a terminal illness. However, it is hoped that the treatment of this dependency will be replaced by better treatment options.
Diabetes has two deadly effects on the human body
The cause of the autoimmune defect, which usually develops in childhood, is unclear, but two important effects are clear:
- Without insulin secreted by beta cells, circulating sugar levels continue to rise. This chronic high blood sugar can damage blood vessels and nerves, leading to a buildup of adverse effects that, if left untreated, can lead to death.
- At present, we can reduce the effects of T1D by closely monitoring blood glucose and injecting insulin. But for most people, this means that their lives require constant attention, managing blood sugar levels and severely reducing quality of life, and even so, life expectancy for T1D patients is 12 years lower than the average!
The results, published in the journal Nature, are exciting because researchers have found a new and promising weapon against this deadly disease: stem cells.
In the early 2000s, researchers successfully treated T1D patients by transplanting donor-friendly beta cells, but the therapy was unfortunately limited by a shortage of donors. But with rapid advances in the medical field, stem cell biology has been able to create glucose-sensing, insulin-dispensing cells in the lab — offering an almost unlimited supply of alternative islet B cells.
In June 2021, a small clinical trial was presented at the American Diabetes Association’s annual meeting. In a small clinical trial, treatment with embryonic stem cells successfully helped T1D patients better control their blood sugar. This research has revolutionized the management of T1D patients and is the culmination of nearly 20 years of clinical research by scientists around the world. It may become a new hope for the cure of diabetes.
One of the things that excites the medical community about stem cells is their potential to differentiate into other cell types.
Initial studies found that stem cells taken from embryos are so powerful that they can differentiate into almost any type of cell; Since then, researchers have found that adult stem cells, also known as induced pluripotent stem cells (IPscs), can achieve specific effects by using signaling molecules to make the stem cells follow specific trajectories. One of the great attractions of stem cell technology for diabetics is that stem cells can become continuously dividing cell lines, which from a single donor can produce trillions of cell lines. So stem cells can turn directly into beta cells, and self-renewing cell lines will provide an endless supply of cells. The present study was very exciting, however, despite making beta cells and transferring them to the human body the idea sounds simple, but difficulties still exist, such as what are the most suitable for use, where should they implanted cells, and it is essential how to ensure that these foreign cells from the effects of the immune system. Of course, the medical community is still trying new ways to overcome these difficulties, such as encapsulating stem cell therapies against immune systems; And by inserting pockets of stem cells under the skin, also to ward off immune system attacks.
Nowadays, stem cells are widely used in many areas of medicine. Stem cells can develop into specialized cells after stimulus, the source of replacement cells and tissues to be updated, which can be used in the treatment of numerous diseases, physical discomfort and disability, in addition to diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease (disease), spinal cord injury, stroke, burns, heart disease, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. There is hardly a field of medicine that has not been touched upon by this invention. We look forward to the future when stem cells can be used to treat these intractable human diseases.