Transplanted embryonic cells used to generate insulin-producing cells switch off diabetes for 6 months

Breakthrough could mean end of daily insulin injections and oral medication for diabetics
By @vitthernandez on
Insulin Injection
A diabetic applies an Insulin pen injection in Vienna November 13, 2012. Picture taken November 13, 2012. Reuters/Heinz-Peter Bader

A scientific breakthrough made recently by scientists at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is one of the good news that insulin-dependent diabetics have long been waiting for. That is ending the torture of daily injections of a hormone that their pancreas no longer produces.

The discovery that transplanted embryonic cells that were produced in large quantities could be used to generate insulin-producing cells is one of the important developments that scientists have announced on the first month of 2016. Other breakthroughs include the use of sound waves, instead of needles, to deliver insulin which is being developed by Australian scientists and the production of insulin-producing pancreatic cells from human skin being developed by California researchers.

The experiment at the University of California’s Diabetes Centre protected from diabetes the mice transplanted with the cells, while the study by MIT and Harvard, also done on mice, switched off the diabetes for six months. The latter designed a material that mimicked human pancreatic cells before the transplant and produced cells identical to normal cells which could again produce insulin.

In the experiment with mice, the cells cured the rodent of the chronic ailment for 174 days, or the equivalent of several human years. The approach not only has the potential to provide diabetics with a new pancreas protected from the immune system which provides control of blood sugar, but also makes taking insulin or oral medication unnecessary.

Daniel Anderson, co-author of the study, published in Nature journal, says that human trial could start in a few years. If successful, instead of daily insulin injections, diabetics would need cell transfusions every few years instead.

However, it could be a bottom line-disaster for pharmaceutical companies since the breakthrough, along with the potential of diabetes drug metformin as an anti-ageing medication instead, could end the need for multiple medication for chronic ailment patients, geriatrics experts warn.