City of Hope researchers are working on a treatment for type 1 diabetes that could potentially cure the disease without toxic side effects. It also might cure other autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
Defu Zeng, M.D., associate professor in the departments of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation and Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases Research, led the study. He shares insights on the strategy, and why it’s important, in this short video.
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In type 1 diabetes, the immune system mistakenly attacks and kills beta cells, the cells in the pancreas that make insulin. And without insulin, your body can’t convert food into energy.
The researchers tested a two-part strategy:
- Block the autoimmune attack against beta cells
- Stimulate new beta cells to grow
In their studies, the researchers infused donor bone marrow into mice so that their immune systems were made up of both their own cells and donated cells. New, healthy cells from the donor replaced faulty immune cells, and this stopped the autoimmune attack on beta cells.
The researchers followed up by giving the mice substances that encouraged the growth of new beta cells.
Tests showed the strategy reversed diabetes in 60 percent of those tested.
Zeng’s team is continuing the studies in the lab, hoping to get approval soon for human clinical trials.