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Stem Cell Therapy Shows Promise for Type 1 Diabetes

Last Updated: January 12, 2012.

"Re-educating" lymphocytes from patients with type 1 diabetes through exposure to cord blood-derived multipotent stem cells is safe and may reverse autoimmunity, according to a study published online Jan. 10 in BMC Medicine.

THURSDAY, Jan. 12 (HealthDay News) -- "Re-educating" lymphocytes from patients with type 1 diabetes through exposure to cord blood-derived multipotent stem cells (CB-SCs) is safe and may reverse autoimmunity, according to a study published online Jan. 10 in BMC Medicine.

Yong Zhao, M.D. Ph.D., of the University of Illinois at Chicago, and colleagues devised a procedure for Stem Cell Educator therapy, where lymphocytes from patients with diabetes were separated from whole blood, briefly co-cultured with adherent CB-SCs), and then returned to the patient. Twelve patients (median age, 29 years) with type 1 diabetes (median diabetes history, eight years) received one treatment, and three patients received sham treatment, in an open-label phase 1/2 study.

The researchers found that, in all participants, Stem Cell Educator therapy was well tolerated, with no adverse events and minimal pain from two venipunctures. There was a marked improvement in C-peptide levels, a reduction in the median glycated hemoglobin A1C values, and a reduction in the median daily insulin dose in patients with some (six patients) and without (six patients) residual islet β cell function. An increase in basal and glucose-stimulated C-peptide levels was seen through 40 weeks. The three patients in the control group showed no improvements. Patients who received Stem Cell Educator therapy had increased expression of co-stimulating molecules, increases in the number of CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ regulatory T cells, and restoration of the Th1/Th2/Th3 cytokine balance.

"Stem Cell Educator therapy is safe, and in individuals with moderate or severe type 1 diabetes, a single treatment produces lasting improvement in metabolic control," the authors write.

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