April 16, 2009

Stem Cells Promising for Diabetes

Patients with type 1 diabetes may be able to reverse their disease with stem cell transplantation.

More than three years after treatment, the majority of patients who underwent autologous nonmyeloablative hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) became insulin free, with good glycemic control and increased C-peptide levels.

Using a patient's own blood stem cells, HSCT removes and transplants the stem cells, then returns them to the patient by intravenous injection. After treatment, more than 86 percent of patients experienced time free from insulin for an average of 31 months. Most patients were also able to achieve good glycemic control.

"At the present time, autologous nonmyeloablative HSCT remains the only treatment capable of reversing type 1 [diabetes] in humans, " the study authors wrote. "Randomized controlled trials and further biological studies are necessary to confirm the role of this treatment in changing the natural history of type 1 [diabetes]."

More studies will be conducted to investigate the effectiveness of HSCT for the treatment of type 1 diabetes.

SOURCE: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 2009;301[15]:1573-1579