Stem cell therapy is giving a ray of new hope to scientists to treat type 2 diabetes that is a major challenge in next three decades all over the world, including the US and India.
Canada-based University of British Columbia scientists have shown for the first time that Type 2 diabetes can be tackled with a combination of specially-cultured stems cells and conventional diabetes drugs.
The scientists have used stem cells to reverse the type 1 diabetes in mice and hope to apply similar findings to expand the treatment of type 2 diabetes as well. Unlike type 1 which hits childhood onwards, type 2 diabetes affects people in later in life, especially the elders and it accounts for 90% of diabates cases worldwide.
Timothy Kieffer, lead researcher from BetaLogics simulated Type 2 diabetes in mice by putting them on a high-fat, high-calorie diet for several weeks before surgically implanting pancreatic-like cells that had been grown in the lab from human stem cells.
Mice that received a combination of the cells with one of three diabetes drugs became as “glucose tolerant” as any healthy mice, keeping their blood sugar under control, even after ingesting sugary food. But the other group of mice with simulated Type 2 diabetes that received the drugs but not the stem cell transplants remained glucose-intolerant as ever.
“Evidence suggests it’s those (sugar) spikes that do a lot of the damage – increasing risks for blindness, heart attack, and kidney failure,” says Kieffer, a member of UBC’s Life Sciences Institute.
The combination therapy also hit upon an unexpected result as the mice returned to a normal weight, the same weight as the healthy control group mice that had been reared on a low-fat diet.
“Their weight loss was intriguing, because some of the common diabetes therapies often lead to weight gain,” Kieffer said, hoping this would give them a clue to further studies to understand how the cell transplants lead to weight loss.
The team is also focusing its research on higher number of progenitor cells – beyond the five million tested in this study – to see whether it can achieve the same results without the need for additional drugs.
About 400 million people all over the world have diabetes and it is eighth major cause of death, affecting both developed and developing nations.