Chinese scientists cure diabetes using stem cells in world first

Chinese scientists cure diabetes using stem cells in world firstChinese scientists cure diabetes using stem cells in world first
via PhotoMIX Company / Pexels (representation only)
Scientists in Shanghai achieved a historic breakthrough after successfully eliminating a long-term patient’s type 2 diabetes through a pioneering cell therapy treatment.
Key points:
  • The 59-year-old patient of 25 years received a transplant of pancreatic cells derived from his own stem cells in 2021. He is now insulin independent.
  • This marks the world’s first successful use of stem cell-derived islet transplantation to cure diabetes.
  • The achievement, published on Cell Discovery on April 30, comes after over a decade of research at Shanghai Changzheng Hospital.
The details:
  • Diabetes is a major health threat, affecting 422 million people worldwide. While there is still no known cure for diabetes, methods of management include insulin injections and other medications.
  • The patient reportedly suffered a significant decline in pancreatic islet function, which regulates blood sugar, after undergoing a kidney transplant in 2017. Since then, he had been dependent on daily multiple insulin injections. 
  • In July 2021, a team at the hospital led by researcher Yin Hao used the patient’s own blood cells to create stem cells, which were then converted into pancreatic islet cells.
  • The transplant successfully eliminated the patient’s need for external insulin within 11 weeks. Oral medication was also gradually reduced and ultimately discontinued a year later.
  • Follow-up exams showed restored pancreatic function and normal kidney function, suggesting that the patient has been cured.
What’s next:
  • In 2023, the FDA approved a similar cell therapy treatment by a Chicago-based startup for type 1 diabetes.
  • The Chinese researchers say more research is needed to confirm the long-term efficacy and broaden applicability of this treatment.
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