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Over 100 years ago, diabetes was a deadly disease. Today we know how to cure her

Cure type 1 diabetes is probably the best evidence for the great potential of stem cells and regenerative medicine. Although the therapy has been tested so far only on laboratory rodents, this will probably change. The only question is when.

Some may not be aware of this, but by the time we were able to develop an effective insulin production process, a little over 100 years ago, diabetes was an incurable terminal disease.

Today, of course, it is still dangerous, but thanks to science we can keep it in check. I bet you will be a less annoying disease in a little over 100 years than a cold. Or it will simply disappear because we will learn to program the human genome properly.

Diabetes , insulin - what's going on?

Insulin is a hormone that is needed to transfer glucose from the blood to all cells of the human body that are currently reporting the need for insulin.

Without the supply of this hormone, cells cannot produce energy. In addition, without the presence of insulin, blood glucose increases, which in unprocessed form leads to tissue damage in the body and the complications resulting from this process, which sooner or later begin to threaten the patient's life.

Type 1 diabetes comes down to the malfunction of our immune system, which uninvited attacks the beta cells that are responsible for producing insulin in the pancreas. On the other hand, in type 2 diabetes, the problem is that our tissues have a reduced insulin sensitivity, which is why they demand more insulin than the body (actually beta cells in the pancreas) can produce.

So both types boil down to the fact that we don't have enough beta cells - either because they are attacked by the immune system or because they are not efficient enough due to our body's reduced insulin sensitivity. The obvious solution to cure diabetes is to provide the diabetic with more beta cells ...

And here stem cells appear

Appropriate programming of the stem cell allows to create from it any other cell found in our body. Based on this assumption, researchers have been looking for the most effective way to grow beta cells for diabetes for some time. Scientists from Millman's laboratory have been dealing with this problem for several years.

In 2016, they were able to develop a method for the production of insulin secreting cells, based on a pattern taken from patients with type 1 diabetes. The problem, however, was that the stem cells programmed in the laboratory did not intermingle only in beta cells.

- A fairly common problem when converting stem cells into beta cells, neurons, or heart cells is that you also produce other cells that you don't need for anything. In the case of beta cells, these are e.g. other types of pancreatic or liver cells. To cure a person with diabetes, about a billion beta cells are needed. If a quarter of the cells you create transform into other cells of the pancreas or liver, diabetes treatment becomes 25 percent. more difficult - explains Millman.

The new discovery of researchers from Millman's laboratory is to improve this process in such a way as to produce as few undesirable cells as possible. The new technique focuses on programming the appropriate cytoskeleton of the cell into which the stem cell is transformed.

The cytoskeleton is such an internal scaffolding of the cell that gives it shape and conditions the type of its interaction with the environment. Millman and his team have assumed that if they focus on forcing stem cells to form a suitable cytoskeleton for beta cells, they will reduce the number of unwanted, accidentally cultured other types of cells.

- This is a completely different approach. Instead of identifying different factors and proteins, as before, to see what would happen, we were able to understand the whole process better and make it less accidental, "explains Millman.

The new method proved to be very effective. Scientists were able to produce more beta cells from the same number of stem cells (from different sources) and implant them into diabetic rodents. After this procedure, mice in the advanced stage of diabetes recovered rapidly without showing any symptoms typical of this disease for over half a year.

When will the same method be used in humans?

An excellent question. Certainly not this year. Researchers from Millman's laboratory must first test cells created using the new method for a long time and on larger, more similar (in terms of organs) animals (e.g. pigs). Before this happens, it will certainly be several more years.

In addition, if we want to talk about a real method of therapy for diabetics, scientists still need to develop ways to maximize the automation of their method so that it is properly scalable.

In Poland alone - according to data published by the National Health Fund - currently around 3.5 million people suffer from diabetes. Of this - according to the National Health Fund - about a million patients are still undiagnosed.

Now imagine that these 3.5 million Poles, instead of taking a few insulin injections every day, could report once or twice a year to supplement the number of beta cells produced from their stem cells and ... stop suffering from diabetes.

This vision will remain distant for a while, but today it can be considered as the most achievable. If we also take into account the fact that we have recently started to learn and explore the possibilities of stem cells, I personally look forward to the next discoveries related to their programming.

Over 100 years ago, diabetes was a deadly disease. Today we know how to cure her


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