Stem cell treatment offers potential cure for Type 1 diabetes

Published: Dec. 8, 2021 at 10:22 AM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - A stem cell treatment is giving hope to the 1.6 million Americans living with Type 1 diabetes. A diagnosis means a lifetime of watching blood sugar levels, managing diet and injections or infusions of insulin. Those who have Type 1 can’t produce their own insulin, or manage their body’s blood sugar. It can cause blindness, kidney failure and can be deadly.

This cell treatment injects insulin producing cells into a patient’s body that help restore the body’s ability to create and regulate insulin. This summer, a 64-year-old man from Ohio became the first person to receive this treatment. And now, his body is controlling its own insulin and blood sugar; a promising result for Type 1 patients.

Eastern Iowa JDRF has long supported Dr. Doug Melton, who is behind this treatment. Though it’s early, JDRF staff say local families are excited about the possibilities. “I think there’s a a bit of disbelief, you know, we’ve worked very hard to find cures. And I say that’s plural because there’s many shots on goal right now to try to cure this very complicated disease,” says Iowa Market Director AnnElise Walsh. “But hope is a really strong medicine.”

Walsh says there’s another study that will test a new gene therapy in patients that will start yet this month in Canada. It will not require immuno-suppressing drugs, which is a caveat to the cell treatment.

Walsh says it’s still early and more research needs to happen before either treatment is up for approval. That will include more clinical trials involving more patients with Type 1 to see if they have similar success stories.

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