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02 Nov 2011
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Stem Cell to treat Diabetes

Diabetes (diabetes mellitus) is a metabolic disorder that affects the ability of the body to produce insulin. Insulin is a critical hormone produced by the pancreas, which helps the body break down glucose and get energy. Diabetes is of two types – Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease where the body just cannot produce insulin. Type 2 diabetes is caused when the quantity of insulin is insufficient or when the insulin cannot be used by the body.

Diabetes affects the entire system. Be it a tooth filling or surgery, diabetes patients have increased chances of complications. It also takes a toll on the heart, eyes and kidneys. In India, nearly 50.8 million people have been diagnosed with Diabetes.

In this context, it’s extremely heartening to hear that stem cell therapy may soon have the answers. Stempeutics Research has got clearance from the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) for conducting phase II clinical trials on patients with Type 2 diabetes, for its product Stempeucel. Stempeucel works by regenerating the beta islet cells in the pancreas, to help the body utilize insulin. If the clinical trials are successful, the product could actually hit the market by 2016.

More hope for those suffering from the rarer type 1, has come in from Yale. Led by Professor Hugh S. Taylor, M.D, researchers used adult stem cells from the endometrium or uterine lining, to grow cultures of beta islet cells. In three weeks, the endometrial cells began exhibiting characteristics of beta islet cells, some even produced insulin. When these were injected into diabetic mice, it was observed that the animals remained active and did not develop cataracts. Further testing is underway.

Stem cell therapy may also hold the key to other illnesses caused or compounded by Diabetes. ReNeuron, a UK based stem cell therapy company has achieved impressive results with its stem cell line ReN009, to treat Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD). PAD affects blood flow to various parts of the body, and in extreme cases, PAD leads to amputation. ReNeuron is going into clinical trials for this line, to help regenerate the vascular system and prevent amputation. The company is also in an advanced phase with another cell line ReN003 to help combat the disorder - Retinitis Pigmentosa.

Stem cell therapy is finding newer applications and if these experiments translate into actual products, the lives of millions will definitely change for the better.

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