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Can Stem Cell Research Help Juvenile Diabetes?

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If you recall the 2008 presidential campaigns, stem cell research was a platform right up there with the economy, education, and Afghanistan. With President Barack Obama in office now, diabetics may see a new era of diabetic care because of the amount of money being put into research on stem cells.

I am not aiming to support one side over another in terms of politics or ethics, rather, explain what stem cells could do for juvenile diabetics in the future of medicinal care.

Both types of stem cells, adult and embryonic, have been shown to help reverse juvenile diabetes. The role of stem cells in the body is to serve as a “repair system” of sorts. The idea, in terms of diabetes, is the stem cell would replace faulty insulin producing beta islet cells. There has been a lot of debate over whether adult or embryonic stem cells react to diabetic bodies better, and both types have given promising results.

A lot of the research being done on stem cell use is completed by American scientists, but they are researching in foreign countries such as Brazil, The United Kingdom, Finland, Singapore, and Japan, just to name a few. Foreign research is necessary because of the laws in the United States regarding research on certain types of stem cells, and the availability of funds to continue research. The most successful research was completed in Brazil, where they actually completed transplants of patients. All but two patients who participated in the study are now living insulin-free lives, according to a report by MSNBC.

If the continuing research has promising results, what can diabetics expect in the future? Based on the successful research completed, and according to various media reports such as work by MSNBC and The TImes (UK), if a patient’s own stem cells are used and simply transplanted into their pancreas, the patient will be insulin free after receiving a stem cell transplant.

However, this has only been successful in about 15 test subjects, so no one is calling stem cells transplants a “cure” quite yet.

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EmpowHER Guest

To clarify, the political debate was over the use of "federal funding for NEW embryonic" stem cell research. Private funding has never been limited. Adult stem cells have never been limited. Federal funding using existing lines of embryonic stem cells has never been limited. While stem cell research for diabetes is promising and exciting, don't expect much difference. The media and politicians make it seem like a much bigger change than it really is.

March 15, 2009 - 2:35pm
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