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Stem Cell research: Reversing Diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis and Macular Degeneration

Feb 09, 2012

Three recently announced stem cell studies highlight the amazing potential that stem cells hold.

Scientists at the University of Illinois at Chicago used stem cells to “re-educate” the immune systems of people with Type 1 diabetes.This condition is caused when the body’s defenses attack cells in the pancreas and requires daily injections of insulin to regulate the patient’s blood sugar levels.The stem cells were used to “restart” pancreatic function, reducing the need for insulin.

Although the research involved only 15 participants and is still at a relatively early stage, it is innovative and appeared to offer improvements in the control of blood glucose, even in those with longstanding Type 1 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes develops when the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas have been destroyed and the body is unable to produce any insulin.Insulin is essential because it allows glucose to enter the body’s cells, where it is used as fuel. In Type 1 diabetes, the body is unable to produce any insulin, so glucose builds up in the blood.

Type 1 diabetes can develop at any age but usually appears before the age of 40 – and especially in childhood.It accounts for between 5% and 15% of all people with the condition and is treated by daily insulin injections, a healthy diet and regular physical activity.

According to the American Diabetes Association (www.diabetes.org), as of 2010,25.8 million children and adults in the United States (or 8.3% of the population) have diabetes.Of these, 5 percent or 1.3 million have Type 1 diabetes.

The study was published in the journal BMC Medicine. Click here for the abstract.

2.Researchersat the University of Cambridge have found a way to reverse damage found in diseases like multiple sclerosis, at least in a study using mice.

Nerve cells lose their electrically-insulating myelin sheath as MS develops.New myelin-generating cells can be produced from stem cells, but the process loses efficiency with age. Researchers linked the bloodstreams of young mice to old mice with myelin damage.Exposure to the youthful blood reactivated stem cells in the old mice, boosting myelin generation.

According to Julia Ruckh, one of the researchers, white blood cells called macrophages from the young mice gathered at the sites of myelin damage in the old mice.Macrophages engulf and destroy pathogens and debris, including destroyed myelin.This debris inhibits regeneration, so clearing it up is important.

According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (www.nationalmssociety.org), approximately 400,000 Americans have MS, and every week about 200 people are diagnosed with it.

The study was reported in the journalCell Stem CellClick here for the abstract.

3.Two legally blind women have regained some of their vision after receiving an injection of embryonic stem cells.The patients are participating in a clinical trial using embryonic stem cells to treat macular degeneration, an age-related cause of blindness.The trial issponsored by Advanced Cell Technology, a Massachusetts biotech company.The preliminary study findings were published in the journal Lancet.

According to Robert Lanza, chief scientific officer at Advanced Cell Technology, although the purpose of the experiment was to test the safety of stem cells injected into the eye, both patients “had measurable improvement in their vision that persisted through the duration of the study.”

Last year, each patient was injected in one eye with cells derived from embryonic cells at the University of California at Los Angeles.Although their sight has improved, both women remain legally blind.

Lanza cautioned that the findings are preliminary, and that the improvements could disappear and complications could emerge.Nevertheless, he thinks the two cases will provide useful lessons for the field.

Stem cells appear to hold great promise in treating a variety of diseases and conditions.Some conditions, such as joint, tendon and muscle injury, are treatable now with stem cells.Other conditions, such as diabetes and MS, appear to be treatable, but widespread treatment is still in the near-future.

Dennis M. Lox, MD, has been sucessfully preforming stem cell therapy for several years. Dr. Lox is located in the Tampa bay area in Clearwater, Florida

Information contained in this blog is intended for educational purposes only and not for medical diagnosis or treatment.If you have a medical concern or issue, please consult with your physician.

Picture of Dr. Lox in his office

About the Author

Dennis M. Lox M.D. is an internationally renown Sports and Regenerative Medicine specialist. Dr. Lox incorporates Regenerative Medicine techniques such as cell science applications, Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP), and Tissue Engineering aspects, to help patients from around the world with a vast array of problems. Dr. Lox is board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Dr. Lox lectures extensively and has edited two PM&R textbooks, the prestigious A State of the Art Review (Star) on Low Back Pain, and Soft Tissue Injuries: Diagnosis and Treatment.

Dennis M. Lox M.D. maintains an active practice in the Tampa Bay, Florida area, and in Beverly Hills, California.