Treating diabetes without insulin injections: a study gives hope

In their study, researchers at Monash University used pancreatic stem cells from a 13-year-old deceased type 1 diabetic patient and were able to “reactivate” them to produce insulin.

diabetes, insulinCurrently, the only way to treat insulin-dependent diabetes is through daily insulin injections or pancreatic islet/pancreatic transplantation which is donor dependent and therefore limited in use. (Image source: pixabay)

A study from Australia’s Monash University has identified a new way to restore insulin production in pancreatic cells. The development is seen as a major breakthrough that could one day lead to eliminating the need for daily insulin injections and developing no therapy for the treatment of diabetes. The research, published in the journal Nature Signal Transduction and Targeted Therapy, was led by diabetes experts Professor Sam El-Osta, Dr Keith Al-Hasani and Indian-born Dr Ishant Khurana from the Department of Monash diabetes.

Breakthrough

Insulin, a hormone produced by beta cells in the pancreas, helps regulate blood sugar levels in the body. In type 1 diabetes, beta cells produce little or no insulin.

In their study, researchers at Monash University used pancreatic stem cells from a 13-year-old deceased type 1 diabetic patient and were able to “reactivate” them to produce insulin. This was done using a drug – GSK-123 – which is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, but is not licensed for the treatment of diabetes. In principle, this shows that insulin-producing cells (beta cells), which were destroyed in type 1 diabetes, can be replaced by new insulin-producing cells, the university said.

Go forward

The scientists admit that their approach needs further work before a therapy reaches patients. But they say the research has the potential to help develop new ways to treat type 1 and type 2 diabetes, especially for insulin-dependent diabetes.

“More work is needed to define the properties of these cells and establish protocols to isolate and grow them…I think the therapy is quite a ways away, however, this represents an important step on the way to designing a a lasting treatment that could be applicable for all types of diabetes,” Dr. Al Hashmi said in a statement from Monash University.

At present, the only way to treat insulin-dependent diabetes is through daily insulin injections or through pancreas/pancreatic islet transplantation which is donor-based and therefore has limited widespread use.

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