Advancements in biotechnology could soon lead to improved type 1 diabetes treatments
Currently, the only real treatment a person with type 1 diabetes has available to them is insulin injections. Since their body is unable to produce the hormone itself, patients are dependent on regular injections whenever their blood sugar levels rise too high.
However, this may change in the near future. Thanks to significant medical advancements, researchers believe it may soon be possible to allow individuals with type 1 diabetes to be less reliant on insulin injections. Some even think a cure may be possible.
A team of researchers recently wrote in the journal Genome Medicine
that they believe advancements in stem cell technology could soon bring many improvements to the treatment of type 1 diabetes.
They pointed out that previous investigations have shown that it is possible to transplant pancreatic islets, which contain insulin-producing beta cells to the pancreases of individuals with type 1 diabetes. However, viable islets are in short supply. It may soon become possible to engineer stem cells to develop into beta cells, which can then be transplanted.
Furthermore, evidence has surfaced suggesting it may be possible to induce other types of pancreatic cells to develop into beta cells through a process known as reprogramming.
The final way in which stem cell technology could improve type 1 diabetes treatments is by influencing the immune system of individuals with the condition. Type 1 diabetes is caused when a person's immune system begins mistakenly attacking insulin-producing beta cells. This eventually leads to the death of these cells. However, it may be possible to utilize pluripotent stem cells to head off this process.
Therapies derived from these advancements in stem cell technology may be several years off. However, the findings discussed in the paper do suggest there is hope for major advancements in the relatively near future.
It may someday be possible for an individual with type 1 diabetes to be independent of insulin injections. This would mark a major improvement over current treatments, as many people with the condition point to frequent injections as the primary difficulty they have.