May 28, 2014

Is umbilical cord blood the answer for type-1 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes forms when the body's immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing islet beta cells in the pancreas. As a result, the body can't produce insulin, which causes blood glucose levels to rise dangerously high and damage the body’s organs.

Scientists have been able to somewhat reverse type-1 diabetes through the use of cord blood stem cells. By introducing human umbilical cord blood stem cells into the immune system and “reprogramming” them to begin producing insulin, the amount of insulin needing to be injected was reduced.

To do this, researchers took the diabetic patient's blood and circulated it through a closed-loop system to separate lymphocytes from the blood and combine them with cord blood stem cells from healthy donors. The blood was then returned as "re-educated lymphocytes" into the patient.

In the 2012 study1, 15 patients ranging in age from 15 to 41 and having a diabetic history of an average of 8 years, took part. Twelve of the patients underwent Stem Cell Educator therapy one time and a control group of three were given mock treatments

Progress was monitored at 4, 12, 24 and 40 weeks post-therapy. Of those receiving the treatment, six of had some residual beta cell function (moderate type 1 diabetes) and the other six had no residual beta cell function (severe type 1 diabetes). For the group with moderate diabetes, the average daily amount of required insulin was down 38 percent; for the group with severe diabetes, their average daily amount was down 25 percent. The control group had no change in the amount of insulin injected daily.

Also, of those receiving the cord blood stem cell therapy, they showed improved levels of C-peptide, which is a byproduct created when insulin is produced.

The researchers stated that they saw an improved autoimmune control in the umbilical cord blood stem cell study and that the therapy increased the percentage of adjusting T lymphocytes in the blood.

According to the American Diabetes Association, almost 26 million Americans have diabetes, with 1 in 700 children with the disease. In 2007, diabetes contributed to a total of 231,404 deaths. At CariCord, you have the chance to store your baby’s cord blood and help to ensure the availability of matching cord blood should your child ever have a need for a stem cell transplant.


1. Yong Zhao, MD, PhD, Tianhe Stem Cell Biotechnologies Inc., Stem Cell Educator Therapy in Type 1 Diabetes, 2012, Available from: http://www.clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01350219 and http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/10/3

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