Stem Cells Offer Hope in Treating Type 1 Diabetes

Procedure isn't a cure, but kept patients off insulin for up to 4 years
By Katherine Thompson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 15, 2009 8:27 AM CDT
New research on stem cells gives hope to insulin-dependent diabetics such as Brandon Merrell, 8, shown at his home Friday, July 11, 2008, in Gilbert, Ariz.   (AP Photo/Matt York)
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(Newser) – Treatment for Type 1 diabetes may have taken a huge step forward, thanks to a procedure using a person's own stem cells to combat the disease. Although scientists stress that the treatment isn't a cure—and called for more study, given that the initial group consisted of just 23 subjects—researchers reported that the stem-cell transplant could keep patients off insulin for up to 4 years, the BBC reports.

Most people in the study had to use insulin again sooner than that, but they needed less of it than before treatment. Such results would likely only occur for people recently diagnosed with Type 1, the version of the disease in which the body's immune system fights insulin-producing cells. Type 2, which is often triggered by obesity, wouldn't be affected.