Scientists at the University of Alberta, Canada, say they may have discovered a cure for diabetes, a disorder marked by high blood sugar, after successfully eliminating the disease in laboratory mice.
Diabetes is due to either the pancreas not producing enough insulin or the cells of the body not responding properly to the insulin produced, with symptoms often including frequent urination, increased thirst, and higher appetite.
According to CTV Alberta, James Shapiro, the lead researcher, who broke the news in Edmonton, said his team was able to collaborate with global experts to turn a patient’s blood into insulin-producing islet cells.
“So now we’re at the point where we can reliably manufacture insulin-producing cells from patients’ blood who have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes and we have been doing this now for the last several months in the lab,” he said.
“Putting these cells into diabetic mice and reversing diabetes to the point where essentially their diabetes is cured.”
In 2000, Shapiro made medical history with the ‘Edmonton Protocol‘, a process that gives patients new insulin-producing cells through islet transplants from organ donors, although with the aid of strong anti-rejection drugs.
Speaking further on his team’s discovery, Shapiro said the new stem cell process would eliminate the problem of the significant side effects often associated with having to use anti-rejection drugs on recipients of the transplant.
According to him, more testing will, however, be needed before the trials can move from animals to people.
“If they’re their own cells, patients won’t reject them. There needs to be preliminary data and ideally a handful of patients that would demonstrate to the world that this is possible and that it’s safe and effective,” he explained.
Data from the World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that roughly 422 million people around the world are living with diabetes, with 1.6 million deaths directly attributed to the metabolic disorder every year.