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Chinese doctors claim diabetics cure through cell therapy

By News Desk

May 28, 2024 05:13 PM


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Researchers in China have announced a groundbreaking achievement: the first-ever reported cure for diabetes through cell therapy.

A 59-year-old patient who underwent an innovative cell transplant in 2021 has been medication-free since 2022, according to a report by the South China Morning Post (SCMP).

This experimental procedure involved creating an artificial version of the insulin-producing cells found in the pancreas, which help regulate blood sugar levels.

The patient had been living with type 2 diabetes for 25 years and had nearly lost all function of these islet cells. He was at high risk for severe complications, requiring multiple daily insulin injections to avoid diabetic coma.

"He was at great risk of serious diabetes complications," Yin Hao, a leading researcher at Shanghai Changzheng Hospital, told Shanghai-based news outlet The Paper earlier this month.

After receiving the cell transplant in July 2021, the patient was free from external insulin within eleven weeks, and his oral medication dosage was gradually reduced until it was completely stopped a year later.

"Follow-up examinations showed that the patient's pancreatic islet function was effectively restored," Yin said. The patient has now been insulin-free for 33 months.

This medical breakthrough, achieved by a team of doctors and researchers from Shanghai Changzheng Hospital, the Centre for Excellence in Molecular Cell Science under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Renji Hospital, was published in the journal Cell Discovery on April 30.

The team used and programmed the patient's own peripheral blood mononuclear cells, transforming them into "seed cells" that reconstituted pancreatic islet tissue in an artificial environment.

Yin emphasised that this breakthrough marks significant progress in the emerging field of regenerative medicine, where the body's own regenerative capabilities are harnessed to treat illnesses. "Our technology has matured and it has pushed boundaries in the field of regenerative medicine for the treatment of diabetes," he said.

Diabetes is a chronic condition affecting the body's ability to convert food into energy. Insulin, produced by the islets in the pancreas, is crucial for regulating blood sugar levels. In diabetes, this system malfunctions: either the body does not produce enough insulin, or it cannot use insulin effectively.

Type 2 diabetes, the most common form, affects nearly 90 per cent of people living with diabetes and is largely diet-related, developing over time. Without proper management, diabetes can lead to serious complications, including heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "there isn't a cure yet for diabetes."

Treatment typically involves weight loss, healthy eating, medication, and frequent insulin injections and monitoring.

Scientists worldwide are exploring islet transplantation as a promising alternative, primarily by creating islet-like cells from human stem cell cultures. After more than a decade of work, this team of Chinese scientists has made significant strides.

China, home to the highest number of diabetes patients worldwide, faces a significant healthcare burden.

According to the International Diabetes Federation, 140 million people in China have diabetes, with 40 million dependent on lifelong insulin injections. This new cell therapy could substantially lighten this healthcare load.


News Desk


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