Curing diabetes in humans would rid our world of a disease that has multiple complications and affects so many people. Now we have the results of a research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis where they have used transplants of embryonic and islet cells to cause rats with previous diabetes to actually be cured of the disease. This is a remarkable finding considering that according to the WHO (World health organization) 171 million people around the world have diabetes.
The researcher first implanted pancreatic embryonic cells from pigs into diabetic rats. These cells then developed into a pancreas which has insulin producing cells, also known as beta cells, which then begin to produce insulin. This first implantation causes the system of the rats to be primed in ready for the second phase, several weeks later, which is an implantation of islet of langerhan cells from adult pigs.
This new discovery has significant implications world wide, because of two reasons. First, this is a transplantation of cells across differing species. Two, it was achieved without using immune suppression.
We already know that islet cell transplantation human to human can cure diabetes, but there are very few donors so only few patients will be cured. So this new research result would overcome the short supply of human islet cells for implantation and also lower the need for immune suppression drugs.
The final insight achieved by this research was that the rats responded differently based on implantation of embryonic pancreatic cells versus implantation of just islet cells. Rats that had been implanted previously with embryonic pancreatic cells and then several weeks later with islet cells, showed normal leves of Glucose in blood. However those rats that were given just implantation of islet cells without previously been implated with embryonic pancreatic cells, showed immune rejection of the islet cells.
The next phase of the research will be to use primates apart from humans and if there is success then human trials will be the next step.
So there is hope yet for patients with diabetes and anticipation as to when trials can begin and humans can get rid of this very serious disease condition.