The current approach is more hopeful, because it involves the patient's own stem cells, not only bypassing the possibility of rejection but also allowing, theoretically, an unlimited number of future cells to be produced, he said.
A 2007 study by the same group of researchers had found that autologous (using the patients' own stem cells) nonmyeloablative hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) allowed type 1 diabetes patients to revert to not using outside insulin, at least for a time.
"That was the first time in history we achieved normal blood sugar and A1c levels and were drug-free after one intervention," Burt said. "Otherwise, patients are stuck on insulin or islet transplant, but they still have to be on intensive immune suppression. On this treatment, they're on nothing. But the criticism was that maybe this insulin independence was a freak prolonged honeymoon period."
"It takes time for the body to attack and break down the insulin-producing cells," explained Mezitis. "So the cells continue producing insulin, then, as the body attacks the cells, they die out."
In this latest report, the authors found beta-cell improvements in 23 patients, aged 13 to 31, who were recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
All participants underwent HSCT, which involved removing the patient's own blood stem cells then reinjecting them into the body.
Twenty patients were able to stop injecting insulin, 12 of them for a mean of 31 months. Eight patients had to start taking insulin again at a low dose.
Not only were blood sugar levels normalized among those individuals w
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