Stem cell therapy could reverse Type 2 diabetes, UBC study finds

VANCOUVER -- University of B.C. scientists appear to be one step closer to reversing diabetes using stem cell therapy.

The latest study, published last week in the journal Stem Cell Reports, found that Type 2 diabetes can be eliminated in mice using a combination of conventional diabetes drugs and specially cultured stem cells. Similar methods have already been used to reverse Type 1 diabetes, which usually begins in childhood.

The team simulated Type 2 diabetes in mice by feeding them a high-fat, high-calorie diet for several weeks. In humans, Type 2 usually begins in adulthood and can be a result of obesity, poor diet and lack of exercise.

Like diabetic humans, the diabetic mice treated only with drugs experienced spikes in their blood sugar levels after eating sugary meals.

But the mice that were surgically implanted with pancreatic-like cells grown from human stem cells didnt have those drastic swings and were able to regulate their blood sugar like healthy animals.

Being able to reduce spikes in blood sugar levels is important because evidence suggests its those spikes that do a lot of the damage increasing risks for blindness, heart attack, and kidney failure, said Timothy Kieffer, a professor in UBCs department of cellular and physiological sciences.

So far, the researchers have followed the mice for up to seven months, and theyve remained healthy.

When we removed the transplanted devices and analyzed the cells within, they still appear very healthy so we believe they will function much longer. Ultimately the duration of cell function will need to be assessed in humans, Kieffer said in an email.

Human trials are already underway for stem cell therapy on Type 1 diabetes; the first patient was implanted with cells in October.

The treatment also had a surprising side-effect: weight loss. The mice all returned to the same, healthy weight as the animals in the control group.

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Stem cell therapy could reverse Type 2 diabetes, UBC study finds

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