Approximately 34 million Americans have been diagnosed with either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes and millions more are prediabetic. While insulin has been the main treatment for diabetes, it has not been 100 percent effective in exposing diabetics to the risk of neuropathy, and infections that could result in amputation.
Type 1 diabetes occurs mostly in childhood when the body attacks its own pancreatic cells destroying any chance of insulin production. Type 1 can only be controlled with daily insulin injections. Failure to do so will result in hyperglycemia, diabetic ketoacidosis, and death.
Type 2 diabetes occurs more commonly in about 95 percent of the cases of diabetes. It often occurs in people who are middle-aged and older. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the existing beta cells cannot produce enough insulin to regulate blood sugar.
Cell Replacement Therapy
Current investigations in regenerative medicine are looking into two areas of treatment. One of the directions of research is to generate new pancreatic beta cells from stem cells.
The second angle of research is to recreate the cellular environment in which these beta cells normally occur. The beta cells are usually found in a part of the pancreas called the islets of Langerhans.
The aim is to recreate the islets which are made up of 2 other types of cells in addition to the beta cells. They also contain alpha cells that secrete glucagon and delta cells that secrete somatostatin. Glucagon increases blood sugar levels while somatostatin is a growth hormone inhibitor.
These three cell types alpha, beta, and delta may be transplanted into diabetics to enable the production of sufficient quantities of the necessary hormones that regulate blood sugar.
Cell replacement therapy uses bioengineered stem cells that behave like embryonic stem cells but are derived from the blood and stomach cells of the patient and are therefore patient specific. Since these stem cells that will behave like beta cells are derived from the patient’s body, there would be no need for immunosuppressive drugs that usually prevent the body from rejecting foreign proteins. This would be a huge leap in the treatment of diabetes.
Cell Regeneration and Protection
The research is also looking into gene therapy as a way of building up the body’s ability to regenerate beta cells. They have also discovered new proteins that are key in protecting beta cells from the immune system and would be pivotal in preventing the onset of Type 1 diabetes.
Regenerative Medicine Specialists in Atlanta
Regenerative medicine specialists in Atlanta are making similar leaps in providing alternative treatments for diabetes. The stem cell therapy for diabetes will be a much more responsive and effective alternative to insulin replacement therapy that would significantly reduce the complications of diabetes.