Diabetes Joins List of Adult Stem Cell Cures

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“It’s a minute by minute struggle … I think about it all the time. If I have a glass of juice, I have to estimate how much I’ve had, and then take the right amount of insulin, and then factor in, okay, I didn’t have a lot of sleep last night, so that’s going to affect my blood sugar, or there’s a lot of stress in my life, or there’s a lot of excitement going on…”.

Mary Costello is a young, professional, reasonably fit registered nurse and knows the ups and downs of diabetes better than most others in her profession. She has a permanent attachment to her abdomen, to allow her to easily inject insulin, and finds it a daily chore. Diabetes is now seen as an epidemic by health researchers – however, stem cell therapy providers in Thailand have had great success treating patients with their own adult stem cells for this invasive disease.

Stem cell therapy providers in Thailand have recognized and been exploiting the potential of stem cells to treat diabetes for a while now. Up to seven hospitals in Thailand are now using stem cell therapy to treat diabetes. A small amount of fat is harvested from diabetic patient’s waists. The pathologist separates the stem cells and activates them with natural proteins, and they are then returned to patient’s bodies intravenously. This greatly improves diabetes symptoms. New research is coming to light that helps explain the mechanisms and reasons for their success.

Researchers at the University of California San Diego discovered recently that in patients with type 2 diabetes, the Wnt signaling pathway of their insulin producing pancreatic cells is up-regulated. The Wnt signaling pathway is a series of protein chemical exchanges that controls the expression of a set of genes, and has an important roles in normal development. Changes to this pathway are also seen in cancer patients. The Wnt pathway is important because it then up-regulates the expression of c-myc, a protein which is thought to destroy insulin-producing beta cells. Wnt signaling has been seen in obese mice well before they develop actual diabetes symptoms. The researchers were led down this path by their stem cell research.

Early in 2008, one of the most significant breakthroughs was made in understanding how stem cell therapy for diabetes would work. A team at the University of Manchester in conjunction with University of Sheffield workers, genetically manipulated the adult stem cells to produce transcription factor. This helps ensure that much greater numbers of stem cells actually become insulin producing pancreatic cells, rather than the neurons which cells turn into with normal stem cell therapy if left unprompted. Transcription factor PAX4 changed the expression of insulin producing cells from a former 1% , to a massive 20%. Scientists were also able to separate the target cells from other types, which helps reduce the risk of cancer from the treatment.

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