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April 10, 2007

Risky Experimental Treatment Provides Some Hope For Type I Diabetes

Topics: Medicine

An adult stem cell treatment has been tried in Brazil on children and it has cured 13 of 15 trial recipients, at least for now. The stem cell transplant is designed to stop the body's immune attack on the pancreas.

Although the autologous stem cell transplant procedure used could be considered too risky for children, 13 of the 15 patients that participated in the study returned to normal lives without insulin injections. Genzyme was one of the backers of the study (hat tip - Rorschach):

[...] Thirteen young diabetics in Brazil have ditched their insulin shots and need no other medication thanks to a risky, but promising treatment with their own stem cells -- apparently the first time such a feat has been accomplished.

Though too early to call it a cure, the procedure has enabled the young people, who have Type I diabetes, to live insulin-free so far, some as long as three years. The treatment involves stem cell transplants from the patients' own blood.

"It's the first time in the history of Type 1 diabetes where people have gone with no treatment whatsoever ... no medications at all, with normal blood sugars," said study co-author Dr. Richard Burt of Northwestern University's medical school in Chicago.

While the procedure can be potentially life-threatening, none of the 15 patients in the study died or suffered lasting side effects. But it didn't work for two of them.

Larger, more rigorous studies are needed to determine if stem cell transplants could become standard treatment for people with the disease once called juvenile diabetes. It is less common than Type 2 diabetes, which is associated with obesity.

[...] The procedure involves stimulating the body to produce new stem cells and harvesting them from the patient's blood. Next comes several days of high-dose chemotherapy, which virtually shuts down the patient's immune system and stops destruction of the few remaining insulin-producing cells in the body. This requires hospitalization and potent drugs to fend off infection. The harvested stem cells, when injected back into the body, build a new healthier immune system that does not attack the insulin-producing cells.

Patients were hospitalized for about three weeks. Many had side effects including nausea, vomiting and hair loss. One developed pneumonia, the only severe complication.

Doctors changed the drug regimen after the treatment failed in the first patient, who ended up needing more insulin than before the study. Another patient also relapsed.

The remaining 13 "live a normal life without taking insulin," said study co-author Dr. Julio Voltarelli of the University of Sao Paulo. "They all went back to their lives."

More here ...

The following video refers to cancer therapy, but the autologous stem cell transplant procedure it describes can give you an idea what is involved in the above described procedure that was used in Brazil:


Posted by Abdul at April 10, 2007 6:37 PM

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