Prochymal -- article claims it will be a
type 1 diabetes 'cure' in less than two years

(Top Posts - Science - 062809)

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 o Prochymal, being tested as a possible way
    to restore the pancreas to healthy insulin-
    producing function in newly diagnosed
    type 1 diabetics

 o May be able to restore function in type 1
    diabetics who've had type 1 diabetes for
    a long period of time, although that possi-
    bility is not currently being tested

 o Cautionary note : the following article is
    extremely optimistic, -but- does not pro-
    vide enough detail to support its optimism
    regarding restoring pancreas function in
    long-term type 1 diabetics, so it will be
    intrigueing to follow when that aspect of
    the supposed 'cure' is moved from the
    theoretical to actual test mode

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ON THE WAY: A cure is in sight

Sunday June 28,2009

by Lucy Johnston and Martyn Halle
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Complete article:

A CURE has been found for diabetes, meaning that
patients could soon be able to stop taking insulin
injections just to stay alive.

The breakthrough treatment, using stem cells made
from human bone marrow, is being used on patients
suffering from Type 1 diabetes, a chronic condition
affecting about 900,000 people in Britain.

The drug could be on the market in less than two years.

Diabetes causes the immune system to attack the
pancreas, the organ that makes insulin, which in turn
controls blood-sugar levels.

Early trials show the drug, Prochymal, can stop the
immune system destroying the pancreas.

Stem cells in the new drug form a barrier to protect
the pancreas from attack, allowing it to recover and
to continue making insulin.

One of the US researchers, Professor Aaron Vinik,
a hormone specialist based in Virginia, said: "This is
a very exciting discovery.

"When people get told they have diabetes it comes
as a tremendous shock. They have to live with having
to take insulin injections for the rest of their lives
because their pancreas has stopped making enough
of its own insulin.

"In future we will diagnose patients and tell them not
to worry because we have a cure that will stop the
disease in its tracks."

Trials of Prochymal, which has been tested on 60
patients with early stage diabetes, is being fast-tracked
by the American drug watchdog the Food and Drug
Administration. Final trials could start early next year,
with the drug getting a licence by early 2011.

Stem cells are taken from volunteers and multiplied in
the lab to produce hundreds of millions of cells. Patients
are given three infusions of the cells into their blood-
stream over 60 days.

Those already on insulin were able to reduce the amount
as the stem cells started saving the ­pancreas from destruc-

Professor Vinik, from Eastern Virginia Medical School
in Norfolk, Virginia, said most patients would still need
insulin to begin with, but "in a matter of months they
would probably be off insulin".

Type 1 diabetes accounts for about 20 per cent of
patients in Britain. Stem cell therapy is unlikely to work
for the two million sufferers of the more common diet-
related Type 2 diabetes.

Earlier work on stem cells and diabetes has been only
partially successful. Professor Vinik said the approach
with the latest research is "completely different".

He said: "The bone marrow cells act to protect the
pancreas so that it can continue functioning and making
insulin. We are aiming for a complete cure where the
pancreas recovers and where the bone marrow stem
cells continue to protect it."

Researchers believe that Prochymal might even be able
to help long-term sufferers of Type 1 diabetes as well
as those who have only recently been diagnosed.

Often a handful of beta cells, those that make insulin,
remain alive in the apparently "dead" ­pancreas. Pro-
fessor Vinik believes that by blocking off the immune
attack on the pancreas, those remaining cells could
grow so that insulin production starts up again.

"Those trials haven't been done yet but I believe that
stem cell treatment could potentially help all Type 1
diabetics," he said.

In diabetes, killer cells, designed to protect the body
from infection, instead attack vital insulin-making cells.
If blood-sugar levels are allowed to rise, sufferers
lapse into a coma and die. Sufferers must take insulin
injections to stay alive.

Treating the disease and its complications, which include
blindness and the loss of limbs, costs the NHS hundreds
of millions a year. Any cure could lead to big savings.

Nadey Hakim, a surgeon at Hammersmith Hospital in
London, said the research was "excellent".

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