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Coming soon -- stem cell transplant to treat type 1 diabetes

Written by Editorial Team |Updated : October 7, 2014 5:26 PM IST

stem-cellA study published in the journal Nature Biotechnology revealed that stem cell treatment for treating type 1 diabetes could soon become a reality.

Researchers of the study found out a faster method to convert stem cells into cells producing insulin. The new method can convert the cells in six weeks, compared to four months taken by earlier methods. This method takes a step closer to have an unlimited supply of insulin-producing cells to treat patients with Type 1 diabetes, who have to be dependent on insulin injections for maintaining steady glucose levels.

The method uses cell-culture to make stem cells to produce insulin. The transformation gets completed once the cells are transplanted into a host. 'We have not yet made fully functional cells in a dish, but we are very close. The cells we make in the lab produce insulin, but are still immature and need the transplant host to complete the transformation into fully functioning cells,' says Timothy Kieffer who led the research and is a professor at University of British Columbia in Canada.

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What arestem cells?

Stem cells are derived from human umbilical cord or bone marrow. Also called the 'basic cells' of our body they have the power to mature into any type of tissue cell in the body. Stem cell therapy is based on the principle that stem cells migrate to the site of the injury and transform themselves to form new tissue cells that can replace the damaged ones. They have the capacity to multiply and renew themselves almost indefinitely and can form mature nerve cells, muscle cells and blood cells. In this therapy they are taken out of the body, and kept under artificial conditions (also called as induction of the stem cells) where they mature into the type of cells that are required to heal a particular part of the body.

What are the diseases that can be cured using stem cell therapy?

Stem cells can be used to treat a variety of blood cancers, blood disorders including anaemic anaemia, tumours, immune disorders and metabolic disorders. Also clinical trials on which suggest that in the future stems from the umbilical cord can be used to treat Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, hydrocephalus, liver cirrhosis, strokes and traumatic brain injuries. Research is also on to check its application for treating type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and rheumatoid arthritis. Besides these, here are some diseases and conditions that may be cured using stem cell therapy.

With inputs from IANS

Photo source: Getty images

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