Can stem cells treat diabetes?

Louis A. Cona, MD
Updated on
Sep 5, 2022

minute read

A brief description of how stem cells may be able to treat Type 1 Diabetes.

Learn more about stem cell therapy and the science behind it.

Stem cell therapy for Diabetes

In the 21st Century, stem cells have become an integral piece in the search for an innovative method to treat Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes, and to move away from regular insulin injections for patients. Their ability to morph or differentiate into different types of cells in the body makes stem cells a prime candidate to combat the condition that affects millions of people worldwide.

In general, diabetes is caused by the body's lack of functioning beta cells or b-cells.

What is Type 1 Diabetes?

In Type 1 Diabetes, the body's immune system actively destroys its supply of b-cells. Type 1 Diabetes is caused by a lack of b-cells in the body due to immunosuppression.

What is Type 2 Diabetes?

In Type 2 Diabetes, the body's b-cells can no longer produce sufficient levels of insulin to overcome the developed insulin resistance.

Is there a cure for Diabetes?

Challenges to find a cure for diabetes has largely revolved around finding a method to replace or replenish b-cells.  In the past, the most effective treatment was a b-cell transplant to increase the number of healthy b-cells in a patient. However, this procedure was undesirable for a multitude of reasons. The minimal number of b-cells required for a single transplant required 2-3 healthy donors. Additionally, the regimen of immunosuppressive drugs required to prevent the body from rejecting the donor cells was strenuous for the recipient.

Can stem cell help Diabetes?

Researchers are now turning to stem cells as a means of achieving a high number of new b-cells without the negative effects of a transplant. After being introduced into a patient, the stem cells migrate to the damaged tissue, differentiate into new b-cells, and continue to maintain a healthy level of b-cells in the body. Alternatively, stem cells can be lab-grown and induced into becoming insulin-producing cells. These cells could then directly replenish depleted cells in a patient's body. With these methods, Type 1 diabetes could be successfully managed without the need for the limited supply of donor cells.

Stem cells can be used in a similar way to treat Type 2 Diabetes. Although b-cells are still present in Type 2 patients, additional b-cells could supplement the body's supply to overcome the insulin resistance present in a patient. Treatment could aim to continuously maintain b-cells levels above the required amount to combat a patient's insulin resistance.

Although advances have already been made in the treatment of diabetes with stem cells, stem cell research is still ongoing and evolving every day. Stem cells have been shown to replenish b-cells both in the body and have been lab-grown for implantation. However, the body still retains an autoimmune response with Type 1 Diabetes and insulin resistance with Type 2 Diabetes. Additional treatment is usually required in conjunction with stem cells to ensure the body safely accepts the new cells and allows normal blood glucose levels to return more permanently.

Notably, lab tests have shown treatments to successfully avert the autoimmune response to the stem cells in non-obese diabetic mice.

Note: This post is intended to provide general information about regenerative medicine, and related areas. All content provided in this blog, website, or any linked materials, including text, graphics, images, patient outcomes, and information, are not intended and should not be considered or used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please always consult with a professional and certified healthcare provider to discuss if a treatment is right for you.

About the author

Louis A. Cona, MD

Medical Director | DVC Stem

Dr. Cona has been performing stem cell therapy for over 12 years. He is a member of the World Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (WAAAM). He is also a recognized member of the British Medical Association, the General Medical Council (UK), the Caribbean College of Family Physicians, and the American Academy of Family Physicians. He is the Medical Director for DVC Stem a world-renowned stem cell therapy clinic located in Grand Cayman.

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