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Type 1 diabetes cure close after stem cell transplant


A cure for type 1 diabetes could finally be within reach after scientists managed to halt the progress of the condition for six months with insulin-producing cells.

Experts from US hospitals and institutions including Harvard University transplanted cells into mice that immediately started producing insulin.

They then‘switched off’ the body’s immune system to show they could prevent the cells to from being rendered useless by it.

The new research, the findings of which were published in biomedical research journal Nature Medicine and biotechnology journal Nature Biotechnology, means a possible cure for the 400,000 people affected by

type 1 diabetes in the UK could be much closer.

A perfect match is required for stem cell transplants to ensure the body does not reject them and that the patient will not have to take anti-rejection medication for the rest of their life. The most painless and non-invasive way of harvesting stem cells for storage to ensure a perfect match is from a naturally shed tooth.

While stem cells can taken from adult teeth removed for dental reasons, these cells will have begun to deteriorate due to age and pollution. However, stem cells extracted from the tooth of a 39-year-old man by BioEden were used to successfully treat his diabetes last year. Stem cells harvested from baby teeth offer the best quality though.

The new studies showed the cells implanted in mice began producing insulin in response to blood glucose levels straight away and kept the blood glucose level within a healthy range for 174 days.

The human islet cells used in the research, which were encapsulated in a material derived from brown algae called triazole-thiomorpholine dioxide (TMTD) that caused minimal response from the immune system in mice and large animals, were generated from stem cells developed by Harvard University Professor Doug Melton.

Melton, who led a breakthrough in mass-producing insulin-producing cells in 2014, has been trying to find a cure for type 1 diabetes since his son was diagnosed with it as a baby.

The research was funded by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). JDRF UK Director of Policy and Communications Sarah Johnson said: “It is significant to see a study of this length return such promising results.”