Human embryonic stem cell breakthrough
brings hope for diabetes cure

(Top Posts - Social/Legal - 052607)

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May 27, 2007

Sydney Morning Herald
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Complete article:

HUMAN embryonic stem cells can be transformed
into pancreatic cells that produce insulin, offering
the potential to cure diabetes, researchers say.

The finding, published in the journal Stem Cells,
has been hailed as a significant step forward in
the quest to improve the lives of millions of the
world's insulin-dependent diabetics, especially

Discovering how to replace the insulin-produc-
ing cells of the pancreas, or islets, which are
destroyed by the body's own immune system,
has long been a focus for scientists studying
the disease.

Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Aus-
tralia chief executive Mike Wilson said it was
the first time artificially created islets had shown
the ability to respond to the amount of glucose
they were exposed to, just as in the bodies of
healthy people.

People with diabetes cannot produce insulin
in response to glucose, which leads to heigh-
tened blood sugar levels and complications
such as excessive thirst, kidney damage, car-
diovascular disease and fatigue.

Mr Wilson said while the research at US bio-
pharmaceutical company Geron Corporation
and the University of Alberta, Canada, was
still only in the laboratory stage, it held great
promise for a future cure.

"This step has never been reached before,"
he said.
Islet cells donated from the pancreases of
cadavers have been able to reduce patients'
dependence on insulin injections, but there
is an extreme shortage of donors, forcing
scientists to look at other sources.

Stem cells are "blank" cells that have the
ability to grow into any other type of cell,
such as the insulin-producing islets.

These islets could then be transplanted into
someone with Type 1 diabetes and poten-
tially cure the disease.

Type 1, also known as juvenile diabetes, is
one of the most common serious childhood
diseases and affects about one in every 700
Australian children.

Current treatment includes constant monitor-
ing of blood sugar levels and diet and lifestyle
changes, as well as daily insulin injections.

Rose Bay parents Greg and Kristen Mason
are hopeful that a cure for Type 1 diabetes
will be found soon.

Their five-year-old daughter Taylor was diag-
nosed with the disease aged 10 months, and
she needs five to six insulin injections every
day. She has a strictly controlled diet and
activity schedule and her blood sugar is mon-
itored up to 10 times daily.

"Every day we are one step closer to finding
a cure so that Taylor can live a normal life," Mr
Mason said.

Source: The Sun-Herald

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In response to a poster who replied:

> Don't get me wrong: I'm Type 1,
> and so is my child (darn it!). But I'm
> tired of "exciting" press releases that
> raise hopes that are unlikely to work
> better than the last 3 decades of
> work in the field.

Well, understood, your frustration and dis-
appointment in the fact that a long-hoped-
for cure is not yet here. I, too, am very
disappointed it has taken so long, having
been type 1 for 46 years, since age 5.

As for hope, futile or not, some still have
it, regarding a cure. I do, simply based on
the fact that as our knowledge of the natural
world increases, our likelihood of solving
natural problems likewise increases, and
based on the belief that some day, some
way, a viable solution, ideally a cure, for
the type 1 diabetes challenges will be

Here's a recent article with some hope on
another front:

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May 28, 2007
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Immunization Against Type 1 Diabetes:
Mice Successfully Treated

Science Daily — Researchers in France
and Germany have successfully treated
type 1 diabetic mice with a vaccination.

The vaccine they designed in this model
included structures that the immune sys-
tem mistakenly attacks in type 1 diabetes.

The researchers showed that, in principle,
it is possible to treat autoimmune diseases
(diseases, in which the immune system
attacks the own body) by inducing “active
tolerance”. That means activating the im-
mune system so that it no longer attacks
the body’s own structures, but instead
protects them from the immune attack.

Autoimmune diseases develop when the
immune system can no longer distinguish
between “non-self” and “self” and attacks
the body’s own structures as is the case
in type 1 diabetes. In this severe meta-
bolic disorder, misguided T cells of the
immune system destroy the cells of the
pancreas that produce insulin, a hormone
essential for life.


“Suppressing undesired immune reactions
through specific immunizations with the
body’s own antigens will open up a funda-
mental new approach to treatment.” The
immunologist is convinced that it will be
possible to treat not only type 1 diabetes
but also other autoimmune diseases – both
as prevention of the disease as well as ther-
apy after disease onset.


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