Could Blood Stem Cells Be Used to Reverse Type 1 Diabetes?

Posted in Diabetes Research News, Diabetes Resources

Researchers know that in individuals with type 1 diabetes, the body mistakenly attacks and destroys insulin-producing beta cells that are used to regulate blood sugar levels. One of the challenges in treating T1D is finding a way to stop this process, or safely introducing new cells to take their place but protecting them from the body’s autoimmune response. This has proven difficult.

Researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital may have found a way to overcome these challenges by combining the patient’s own blood cells with a healthy PD-L1 gene or a targeted molecule “cocktail” of interferon beta, interferon gamma, and polyinosinic-polycytidylic acid. Both of these approaches had the same effect.

Scientists found that the problem with current treatments involving immunotherapy or injecting patients with their own blood stem cells is that these cells are still defective in producing PD-L1, a protein that helps protect against T1D. By introducing a healthy PD-L1 gene (or the “cocktail”) in mice with diabetes, the disease was reversed. In nearly all of the mice, the diabetes was cured in the short term, and in one-third of the mice, these results were long-term. In addition, there were no adverse effects of the treatment.

The researchers are working on gaining approval for human trials to test this therapy, and partnering with Fate Therapeutics to create a pill that would introduce these healthier blood stem cells. More extensive testing is necessary to determine how long the treatment is effective and how frequently it would need to be re-administered. However, it is encouraging to see the initial reversal of T1D in mice and what that may mean in the future for humans with the disease.

The Diabetes Research Connection strives to help early career scientists continue advancing research and treatment options for type 1 diabetes. With the support of individuals, corporations, and foundations, novel research projects can receive up to $50,000 in funding. Learn more about current projects and how to support these efforts by visiting http://diabetesresearchconnection.org.