2 May 2014
Stemming the flow of diabetes
Every so often we hear of new hope for the cure of diabetes. Islet cell transplants were probably the first to be successfully used in a few patients. However, much of the interest surrounds the use of stem cells.
Stem cells are the most basic cells in the body and can evolve into any type of cell from bone to nerve tissue. For the first time, scientists have been able to modify stem cells of a person with diabetes using DNA from a healthy donor. These cells can then be modified, in this case, to produce insulin. They can then be put back into the person with diabetes with no risk of rejection.
Magic or what?
The important thing to remember is that all these potential cures for diabetes only affect Type 1 Diabetes where, for whatever reason, the beta cells have ceased production of insulin. And that is all that is wrong.
These treatments have no potential for use in Type 2 Diabetes where, at least in the early stages of the disease, there is nothing at all wrong with beta cell function. Indeed, a person with Type 2 Diabetes often produces more insulin than a person without diabetes in an attempt to overcome the insulin resistance that is causing the problem.
For Type 2 Diabetes, we will go on treating obesity, hypertension and dyslipidæmia for the foreseeable future – until we can find a cure for insulin resistance even.