Diabetes and Stem Cell Therapy
Diabetes is a disease in which a person’s body produces too much glucose, or blood sugar, and not enough insulin. This can cause a number of serious health conditions, including damage to the liver, blindness, and heart disease. This metabolic disorder is a medical condition that has no known cure. With the introduction of stem cell therapy, however, the potential for advanced treatment is elevated. Although past efforts have proven challenging, scientist continue their efforts and are making headway.
There are several different types of diabetes. When a person does not make insulin, it is known as Type I Diabetes, Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (IDDM), or Juvenile Diabetes. Typically this occurs when the person is still a child or even as a young adult. Between five and 10 percent of all diabetics are Type I. When a person’s body begins to have difficulty using the insulin that it produces, or fails to produce insulin, it is called Type II diabetes. This is the most common form of diabetes. Traditionally, Type II Diabetes occurs in adults more often than children. However, in recent times, more and more children are developing this form of Diabetes. People who are at greatest risk for this condition include people who are obese, inactive, have a history in their family of the condition, have had gestational diabetes, or have high blood pressure. Certain ethnicities are more prone to developing Type II diabetes. This includes Asian Americans, African-Americans, and Native Americans.
There are specific symptoms that are associated with the disease that people should be aware of. When a person experiences tingling in the feet or numbness, blurring vision, increased hunger, thirst and need to urinate, he or she may be exhibiting signs of diabetes and should have an examination. Other symptoms of the disease include weight loss, fatigue, and slow healing of wounds or infections. Type I symptoms are much the same as Type II with the exception of nausea, stomach pain and potential vomiting.
There is no cure for either type of diabetes. However, they can be managed and even controlled with the right treatment. People with Type I diabetes must take insulin to make up for their body’s inability to produce it. They must plan their meals and avoid certain foods, such as items that are high in high sugar or carbohydrates. Glucose monitoring and physical activity are also key parts of successfully treating this type of diabetes. People diagnosed with Type II diabetes will need to take medication to help control their diabetes. This is often in the form of a pill or tablet, however, in some cases insulin is needed. Like Type I diabetics, glucose must be monitored and certain foods avoided. Meal planning is crucial to Type II maintenance as is physical activity.
Stem cells are cells that are still immature and do not have a function. They can adapt and change into different cells in the body. Stem cells may also self-generate. This means they can split and either take on a different cell type or stay a stem cell. This self-generation can repeat numerous times throughout the life of the host. Stem cell therapy is the use of these stem cells in the treatment of certain diseases, such as diabetes. Researchers are constantly studying stem cells for use in the treatment of diabetes. For the treatment of diabetes, stem cells would grow and become islet cells that produce insulin.
- National Institute of Health: What Are Stem Cell and Why Are They Important: An article from the National Institute of Health that explains what stems cells are and their importance. It is the first section to a section that covers stem cell basic information. Other information in the article includes embryonic and adult stem cells.
- Stem Cell Research Overview: A University of Maryland Medical Center web page about stem cell research. It covers the definition of stem cell research, its uses and the controversies that are associated with it.
- Definition: What are Stem Cells? (PDF): A University of Minnesota Health Sciences paper that explains the nature of stem cells in plain language. It also discusses the ethical issues that are involved.
- Stem Cells – What They Are and What They Do: This is the Mayo Clinic’s informational resource about stem cells and their uses. This page includes information on what stem cells are and what scientists believe stem cell research can do for humanity.
- Stem Cells Quick Reference: The University of Utah’s web page for information about stem cells. It contains information about the potential uses, problems and ethical concerns.
- American Diabetes Association – Stem Cell Research: A page about stem cell research by the American Diabetes Association. This article discusses recent political and scientific developments, the potential benefits of stem cell research, and related government policies.
- Therapeutic Potential and Ethical Considerations: A Santa Clara University article about stem cell therapy for diabetes. This page explains both the potential benefits and the controversy that surrounds the topic.
- Joslin Diabetes Center – What is Stem Cell Research?: An informational resource about the connection between stem cell research and diabetes. Readers will find explanations on how stem cell therapy might help with diabetes, as well as a short glossary of terms.
- Time – Stems Cells May Reverse Type I Diabetes: A Time Magazine story about recent scientific breakthroughs in stem cell research. It explains how Type 1 Diabetes occurs, and how scientists think stem cell therapy will help.
- Turning Stem Cells Into Insulin Producing Cells: This article by the Diabetes Research Institute talks about how stem cells can be used to cure diabetes. It explains how stem cells might be used turned into cells that produce insulin.
- Type I Diabetes Stem Cell Treatments Show Promise: A WebMD story about the progress being made in using stem cell therapy to fight diabetes. This page explains how scientists helped some teenagers to stop needing insulin for over a year, by using their own body’s stem cells.
- Statistics About Diabetes: A Wexner Medical Center informational resource about diabetes. It contains statistical information about the prevalence of the disease.
- Learn About Diabetes: A Michigan Comprehensive Diabetes Center web page. It uses a pictorial diagram to explain the nature of this metabolic disorder.
- Facts About Diabetes: An article by the University of Chicago about diabetes facts. Readers can find out what diabetes is about, as well as pre-diabetes and gestational diabetes. Information about prevention is also provided.
- Treatments for Diabetes: UC Davis’s web page about medical treatments for diabetes. It discusses treatments for Type 1, Type 2 and gestational versions of the disease.
- Treatment Options for Diabetics: A Net Wellness article about diabetes treatment techniques. This page contains information on behavioral options like exercise, as well as what kinds of drugs are used to treat the disease.