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Cord Blood may Hold Potential Therapy for Type 1 Diabetes

Boffins have found that umbilical cord blood might safely preserve insulin production in children newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

The study was conducted by a team of researchers led by Dr. Michael Haller at the University of Florida.

As part of the study, researchers identified children recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes whose families banked their umbilical cord blood at birth, and gave seven patients ages 2 to 7 intravenous infusions of stem cells isolated from their own cord blood.

Researchers evaluated the patients for the next two years to measure how much insulin they were making on their own and to assess blood sugar levels and the function of key immune system cells.

The study found that during the first six months, the children required significantly less insulin and maintained better control of blood sugar levels than children of comparable age with type 1 diabetes who were randomly selected from the clinic population.

The researchers also noted that the children who received cord blood infusions had higher levels of regulatory immune cells in their blood six months after the infusion.

"This is the first attempt at using cord blood as a potential therapy for type 1 diabetes. We hope these cells can either lessen the immune system's attack on the pancreas or possibly introduce stem cells that can differentiate into insulin-producing cells," Haller said.

"This isn't a cure-all. We think that giving these cells is essentially providing some immunotherapy and downregulating the autoimmunity these patients have," he added.

The findings of the study were presented at the American Diabetes Association's 67th Scientific Sessions in Chicago.


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