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By 2035, nearly 600 million people worldwide will be living with diabetes, according to the International Diabetes Federation. For many people, controlled diet and good lifestyle habits can help in diabetes control but many patients take up the practice of using external insulin, after being suggested by doctors. Medications have been reported to cause more complications in diabetes patients in the long run and therefore alternative therapies like stem cell therapy are gaining more attention in 2021.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition in which the body cannot properly regulate blood glucose levels due to discrepancy in insulin production. Insulin is expressed by the pancreas and when it reaches the blood, insulin binds with glucose so that cells can uptake it for energy. If insulin production is hampered, blood glucose levels increase in the body as cells cannot utilize it. In case of diabetes, blood sugar is elevated either because pancreas cannot produce enough insulin (Type1 diabetes) or because body cells fail to respond to insulin (Type2 diabetes). For more info on diabetes related diet and lifestyle,click here

What are the common treatments of Diabetes?

Medical advancements in the field of diabetes through improvements in insulin administration and glucose monitoring medications have become the conventional module. Since 1999, doctors have pushed the notion of pancreatic cell transplants to replace non-functional pancreatic cells with healthy insulin-producing pancreatic cells. But these treatment procedures do not show long-term benefits. Even in the case of transplant procedures, doctors started facing limitation of tissue supply and cost.

How can stem cell research help Diabetes?

To explore the mechanisms of diabetes and how our cells process glucose, stem cells have bene very helpful. Questions like ‘Why does the immune system attack pancreatic beta cells in diabetes Type1?’  and ‘what causes insulin resistance in Type2?’are being sought by researchers with the help of stem cell research.

Recently, much progress has come up in understanding diabetes by growing beta cells from embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) (Ref). iPSC-derived beta cells could also be used for replacement therapy and help in transplantation procedures in the long run. As induced pluripotent stem cells can be made from patient’s own cells, it reduces risk of transplant rejection.

Potential of Stem Cell Therapy in Diabetes

In recent trials like https://www.worldstemcellsummit.com/2021/04/08/clinical-trial-for-novel-investigational-treatment-of-type-1-diabetes-open-for-enrollment-in-miami/, cell therapy is getting popular in terms of treating Diabetes by restoring normal glucose control.Developing effective stem-cell based therapy against Diabetes has two main challenges:(a) finding an adequate supply of insulin-producing cells and (b) protecting the cells used for therapy from immune system attack.

Scientists are trying to solve the first limitation by generating glucose-sensing, insulin producing cells from ESCs and iPSCs. Moreover, stimulation of beta cells to proliferate further can also help in more insulin production. As for the second challenge of protecting the generated beta cells from immune attack, one approach is genetically modifying the cells to evade immune attack or encapsulate them for protection. These encapsulated cells can produce insulin to pass through semi-permeable encapsulation while keeping the cells safe from immune attack.

In 2021, stem cell technology has advanced much into reprogramming stem cells into desired cell lineages although much research is needed to make the differentiation more directed and therapeutically safe. Stem cell therapy promises a potential cure against diabetes by reversing insulin conditions and might be regarded as the best personalized solution in future.

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