Researchers look to stem cell therapy and bone marrow transplants to find a cure for diabetes

(San Diego, Calif., December 8, 2003) Millions of Americans are diagnosed with type I diabetes every year. The disease, which results from the body's failure to produce insulin, continues to be a mystery to the medical community, although both genetics and environmental factors appear to play a role in the cause. Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children or young adults and, if not properly treated, can lead to complications such as heart and kidney disease, stroke, amputations, blindness, and even death. Advancements in research continue to move steadily toward an eventual cure through the use of breakthroughs such as cellular therapy and bone marrow transplantation, as shown by several studies presented during the 45th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Hematology.

"As researchers seek out a possible cure for type 1 diabetes, stem cell therapy and bone marrow transplantation are important avenues of exploration," said Janis Abkowitz, M.D., Head of the Hematology Section, University of Washington Medical Center and Professor of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle. "Although we have a long way to go, this field shows promise."

Derivation of Functional Insulin Producing Cells From Human Bone Marrow-Derived Stem Cells (Abstract 750)

Insulin dependent type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder, meaning the body's own immune system attacks native cells and tissue because it recognizes the material as foreign matter. In the case of type 1 diabetes, insulin producing beta cells that are found in the pancreas are destroyed by the body's own T-cells, a natural immune response gone haywire. In an attempt to circumvent this troublesome immune response, potential cellular therapies, such as islet (endocrine) cell transplantation, have recently been explored through research. However, even these novel therapies are hampered by islet donor availability, immune rejection, and an inability to replica

Contact: Aimee Frank
American Society of Hematology

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