Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Diabetes and the Stem Cell Promise

We certainly live in amazing times!

"Another approach to the autoimmune problem is being tested by ViaCyte. The company is working on an embryonic stem cell-based therapy that will enclose beta-cell precursors inside a membrane envelope, then implant them under a diabetic patient's skin. The pouch will allow insulin to flow out of it, into a patient's bloodstream, but won't allow cells of the immune system to get in and attack the implant (or allow rogue cancers from the transplant, should they arise, to escape into the recipient's body).

Finally, diabetes researchers face the same challenges as any other scientists working with stem cells: They need to figure out how to produce large numbers of the beta cells and make sure they're safe and stable.
Over the long term, the best solution would probably be to study how stem cells generate beta cells to figure out how to teach a patient's body to regrow islets for itself from stem cells, and possibly even other types of cells, already in the body, Firpo says. "We could have stem cell therapies that don't actually involve a stem cell being transplanted into a person."


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