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article imageResearchers say stem cells could provide Type I diabetes cure

By Martin Laine     Oct 10, 2014 in Health
A team of Havard University researchers believe they have found a cure for Type I diabetes using stem cells to create the kind of insulin-producing cells that victims of Type I diabetes lack.
“We are now just one pre-clinical step away from the finish line,” said Doug Melton, lead researcher on the project in an article on the Harvard Gazette website.
About 3 million Americans suffer from Type I diabetes, and must rely on regular injections of insulin to control it. Among them are Melton’s two children, born with the condition, and this is what spurred him to begin his search for a cure 23 years ago.
To be sure, there have been many obstacles and frustrations along the way, both in his own research and the work of others.
“We’re tired of curing mice,” Melton said in an interview in the Boston Globe. “Most patients are sick of hearing that something’s around the corner.”
This time is different, Melton said, and he now feels confident and energized to push forward. It will still be a few years before testing on humans can begin.
“You never know for sure that something like this is going to work,” said Melton. “We’ve given these cells three separate challenges with glucose in mice, and they’ve responded appropriately; that was really exciting.”
Melton is Harvard’s Xander University Professor and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.
A paper on the procedure was published Thursday in the journal Cell.
The process which Melton and his team developed has six steps and takes place over 40 days. Both embryonic stem cells and stem cells developed from a patient’s skin cells were used. These develop into insulin-producing cells, from there can be produced in the large quantities before being transplanted into a patient.
The news of the breakthrough was met with immediate praise from others working in the field.
Elaine Fuchs, a professor at Rockefeller University, said the research is “One of the most important advances to date in the stem cell field, and I join the many people throughout the world in applauding my colleague for this remarkable achievement.”
“If this scalable technology is proven to work in both the clinic and in the manufacturing facility, the impact on the treatment of diabetes will be a medical game-changer on a par with antibiotics and bacterial infections,” said Chris Mason, professor of Regenerative Medicine at University College London, in an article in the Telegraph.
More about Stem cells, Diabetes, Harvard university
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