Scientists Have Successfully Cured Diabetes In Mice For The First Time Ever
The stem cell technique used by the scientists at the Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis was successful in functionally curing the disease in mice for nine months at least, and in certain cases up to a year.
The converted human stem cells allowed the animals to quickly produce insulin that broke down their high blood sugar. The experiments saw their blood sugar levels return to a normal healthy level within just two weeks.
While diabetes can be managed through diet, medication and lifestyle, there is currently no cure for the disease.
So, without going too far into the technical side of what the scientists did, they managed to change human stem cells to insulin producing ones, which then showed the altered cells could help the mice fight off the illness.
They also converted some other stem cells into beta pancreatic cells to produce insulin and break up the sugar in the mice's blood.
The St Louis-based scientists published their results in the journal Biotechnology.
Dr Jeffrey R. Millman, an assistant professor of medicine and biomechanical engineering, as well as the principal investigator of this particular study, wrote in a statement: "These mice had very severe diabetes with blood sugar readings of more than 500 milligrams per deciliter of blood - levels that could be fatal for a person - and when we gave the mice the insulin-secreting cells, within two weeks their blood glucose levels had returned to normal and stayed that way for many months."
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After they discovered how to convert the cells some years ago, they've spent the time since then ensuring the converted cells are the ones they need, rather than other types of cells that are useless for curing diabetes.
Millman went on to explain: "A common problem when you're trying to transform a human stem cell into an insulin-producing beta cell - or a neuron or a heart cell - is that you also produce other cells that you don't want.
"In the case of beta cells, we might get other types of pancreas cells or liver cells.
"The more off-target cells you get, the less therapeutically relevant cells you have.
"You need about a billion beta cells to cure a person of diabetes. But if a quarter of the cells you make are actually liver cells or other pancreas cells, instead of needing a billion cells, you'll need 1.25 billion cells.
"It makes curing the disease 25 percent more difficult."
While this breakthrough is undoubtedly is good news, we're still a long way off using this sort of treatment on humans.
There's loads of testing that must take place to ensure the treatment works and is safe for humans. The treatment must also be automated to put an end to the regular insulin injections diabetic people need now.
The next step for the scientists is to test it out on larger animals and for longer periods of time.
However, this is still the first time that a mammal has been functionally cured of diabetes, which had previously been considered incurable.
Featured Image Credit: Millman Laboratories