April 03, 2015

Cord blood banking is sure to make an impact in the future of diabetes when it comes to treating type 1 cases of the disease, but what about type 2? Can cord blood banking be a source of hope for those patients as well? Advancements in stem cell research may soon make that vision a possibility for those with both types of this dreadful disease.

Previous clinical trials have shown that stem cells and umbilical cord blood1 have the potential to reverse type 1 diabetes, which usually begins during the childhood years. But an announcement made this week has given other diabetes suffers reason for hope as well.

The March 19 issue of Stem Cell Reports published the results of a recent stem cell study conducted on mice who had an implanted rodent-equivalent of type 2 diabetes. Scientists from the University of British Columbia, along with an outside research and development group, conducted the clinical trial and focused the type 2 diabetes treatments on the use of lab-modified stem cells and traditional diabetes medications2. By following a special stem cell treatment, (which, in this particular case, involved embryonic stem cells, but the same doctrines could theoretically be applied to cord blood stem cells) researchers were able to successfully bring the mice’s blood to “glucose tolerant” levels, resulting in fewer blood sugar spikes, as compared to the group of mice who received the drugs but did not receive the stem cell transplant. With continued treatment, the stem cell group of mice also returned back to their normal healthy weight and did so much quicker than their research counterparts not receiving stem cells, even though they all received the same low-fat diet, post-treatment.

The positive results of this most recent study could have widespread effects due to the fact that most cases of diabetes in the U.S. – almost 90 percent of cases, in fact – are type 2. Type 2 diabetes typically appears in adulthood and is a result of the body’s reduced ability to respond to insulin. Diet and exercise are two of the most important factors in controlling this disease. Uncontrolled type 2 diabetes can have severe and lasting consequences to a person’s body including heart attack, kidney and liver failure, blindness, as well as neuropathy, especially in the hands and feet.

The previous study on type 1 diabetes was straight-forward. Cord blood stem cells were introduced to a patient with the intent of having the cells migrate to the pancreas and hopefully reprogram the mutated cells preventing it from creating enough insulin. Cord blood has shown potential in this area but the path to the finish line in declaring the disease cured is still a long way away.

Cord blood banking can and will surely play a role in defeating this disease in the days and years to come. More research using cord blood as a valuable tool is currently underway in every stage of exploration and new innovations are certain to be discovered in the process.

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