WEDNESDAY, Jan. 11 (HealthDay News) -- A new type of stem cell treatment for people with type 1 diabetes appears to help re-educate rogue immune system cells, which allows cells in the pancreas to start producing insulin again.
The treatment, which combines a patient's immune system cells with stem cells from a donor's cord blood, even worked in people with long-standing diabetes who were believed to have no insulin-producing ability.
Although the treatment didn't wean anyone off insulin completely, average blood sugar levels dropped significantly, which would reduce the risk of long-term complications.
"Our study brings a new hope for people with type 1 diabetes. If we can control the autoimmunity, we may reverse the diabetes. We showed that the islets [cells] can start to work again," said Dr. Yong Zhao, an assistant professor in the section of endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
This treatment could potentially be useful in other autoimmune diseases, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
"It's quite remarkable that this approach, based on the re-education of immune cells, might work so well. The concept is very intriguing, and the treatment seems to be so simple and so safe," said Dr. Luca Inverardi, deputy director of translational research at the Diabetes Research Institute, University of Miami School of Medicine.
But he's also "reasonably cautious," he said. "The follow-up is long, up to 40 weeks, but it's not long enough to declare victory against diabetes yet," said Inverardi.
Also, he noted that the study involved only 15 Chinese people, and that type 1 diabetes is a bit different in that population. He said he'd like to see larger studies with a more diverse population, followed for a longer time.
Results of the study were published online Jan. 9 in the journal BMC Medicine.'/>"/>
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