Cord blood may preserve insulin levels in children with type 1 diabetes

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Umbilical cord blood may safely preserve insulin production in children newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, according to findings from a small national pilot study presented Monday (June 25) at the American Diabetes Associations 67th Scientific Sessions in Chicago.

University of Florida researchers sought to determine whether it is feasible to use a patients own cord blood stem cells to neutralize the bodys autoimmune attack on the pancreas and help restore the organs ability to make insulin, which regulates how the body uses sugar and other nutrients for energy.

This is the first attempt at using cord blood as a potential therapy for type 1 diabetes. We hope these cells can either lessen the immune systems attack on the pancreas or possibly introduce stem cells that can differentiate into insulin-producing cells, said pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Michael Haller, an assistant professor of medicine at UFs College of Medicine.

While this is a relatively small study we can confidently say this is safe, and we have seen metabolic and immunologic changes to suggest there may be benefit, Haller said. Its not curing diabetes, but this is a first step to help us learn more and get us moving in the right direction.

Researchers got the idea in part from a patients father who had read that scientists elsewhere were able to reverse diabetes in mice by taking bone marrow from one animal and infusing it into its identical sibling without using chemotherapy or radiation therapy. And in the lab, scientists have been able to coax stem cells isolated from cord blood into making insulin. The man asked UF researchers whether giving a patient his or her own cord blood could have a similarly positive effect.

We thought this was a very reasonable question and would be a safe approach as long as we refrained from using chemotherapy, radiation therapy or manipulating the cells. Since there are a lot more people ou

Contact: Melanie Fridl Ross
University of Florida

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