Stem cells from cord blood "re-taught" the immune system T-cells in type one diabetics so that their pancrei began to produce insulin, thereby reducing the amount of insulin they need to inject. Dr. Yong Zhao from the University of Illinois at Chicago published these findings online in an open access journal.
What is type one diabetes?
Type one diabetes is an auto-immune disease that occurs when the body's own immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancrease. Because of this, the body can no longer make insulin, and blood glucose levels rise, damaging body organs. Insulin must be injected into layers of body fat in order to make up for the loss.
What did the study say?
The researchers described a procedure that they called "Stem Cell Educator Therapy" where the diabetic patient's blood is circulated through a closed-loop system. The system separates lymphocytes (a class of immune cells that includes T cells) from the whole blood and cultures them with cord blood cells from healthy donors before returning the "re-educated" lymphocytes to the patient's blood stream.
Fifteen diabetics were recruited for this phase of the study. Patients were between fifteen and forty one years old with a diabetic history ranging from one to twenty one years.
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The daily dose of insulin required was down by 38% by week twelve of the study in patients whose beta cells were not all killed at the point of initiation. The daily dose was reduced 25% in patients whose beta cells were completely gone. All of these patients showed increased C-peptide levels, a biomarker used to show how well beta cells are working.
"Individuals who received Stem Cell Educator Therapy exhibited increased expression of costimulating molecules, increases in the number of triglycerides, and restoration of the cytokine balance."