A clinical trial using stem cells taken from a patients’ own fat and given intravenously to treat type 2 diabetes showed improvement in most patients’ blood sugar level control and Beta cell function over a 12 months period.
The number of people with type 2 diabetes is increasing fast in the Western countries and it is the main cause of kidney failure, blindness and other disabilities. 90-95% of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes.
What goes on in our body that leads to type 2 diabetes? The sugar we eat in our daily lives is turned into energy with the help of a hormone known as insulin, which is produced by a unique cell called Beta cell. When our body stops to respond to the effects of insulin normally a state known as insulin resistance develops and the sugar that was supposed to become a source of energy accumulates instead in our blood. This triggers the Beta cells to produce more insulin in order to maintain a normal blood sugar level. Eventually over-worked Beta cells break down and lose their ability to produce insulin. Without sufficient insulin the blood sugar level starts to rise without control and causes type 2 diabetes. Therefore, we can say that Beta cells play a major part in the mechanism of this disease.
Treatments available today concentrate on the body’s response to insulin or replacing the lack of insulin but not on improving the function of Beta cells. These treatments are known to affect the heart and be mentally difficult for patients. Furthermore, the current methods of treatment do not seem to be very effective, as diabetes related health problems did not decline much over the last 10 years.
To date there have been little or no success in discovering new treatment methods that focus on repair, replacement or increasing the number of Beta cells until the emergence of stem cell therapy. Stem cell therapy offers new ways to treat type 2 diabetes after having been successfully used in treating type 1 diabetes.
A clinical trial using stem cell therapy was conducted on 32 patients with type 2 diabetes. The stem cells used in the trial were stromal vascular fraction (SVF) cells taken from patients’ own fat. The advantage of using patient’s own fat as a source of SVF cells, is that it is safe, less harmful, more affordable as compared to extracting stem cells from patients’ other organs such as skin, liver and bone marrow. Also, the use of SVF cells has already shown to be safe and effective both in animals and humans when used in treating various injuries and illnesses.
The trial results confirmed that SVF stem cells when given intravenously to treat patients with type 2 diabetes was a safe procedure, and over the 12 months period, most patients’ blood sugar level control and Beta cell function improved. An improved Beta cell function could mean that the Beta cell was repaired or renewed. Although it was a small trial the positive health outcomes and little side effects shown encourage future larger clinical trials to further support these findings.
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