Adult stem cells may hold treatment potential for type 1 diabetes

Some individuals who have type 1 diabetes consider undergoing an organ transplant in order to receive a new pancreas that can produce insulin-making cells.

However, organ transplant lists are often long and the surgeries carry the risk that a patient's body will reject the new pancreas or that there will be complications during the operation.

For this reason, researchers have investigated new ways to restore type 1 diabetics' ability to produce their own insulin without the need for surgery.

A recent study published in the journal Cell Stem Cell indicated that adult stem cells may be more viable options for replacing insulin-producing beta cells than those derived from embryos.

"When generated from human beta cells, pluriponent [adult] stem cells maintain a 'memory' of their origins, in the proteins bound to their genes," said researcher Shimon Efrat, a professor at Tel Aviv University.

The scientists said that their findings may lead to new methods of replenishing pancreatic beta cells in individuals with type 1 diabetes.

Although the American Diabetes Association reports that people with type 1 diabetes account for only 5 percent of the more than 25 million individuals in the U.S. who have been diagnosed with the disease, many type 1 diabetics experience a significant impact on their quality of life because they are insulin dependent.

Insulin is often one of the key diabetes treatments for individuals with type 1 diabetes. The organization explains that there are four different synthetic variations of the hormone, including rapid-acting, short-acting, intermediate-acting and long-acting.

Patients may require a combination of multiple types of insulin. For example, long-acting doses may be best used before going to sleep at night. This way, people with type 1 diabetes can help ensure that they will not experience dangerously low blood sugar levels while they are asleep, a condition known as nocturnal hypoglycemia.