Can donated marrow do away with type 1 diabetes?

June 21, 2012 | by City of Hope Staff

City of Hope researchers are working on a treatment for type 1 diabetes that could potentially cure the disease without toxic side effects.

Defu Zeng, and his team published the latest results from their lab studies in Science Translational Medicine on May 9. He shares insights on the strategy, and why it’s important, in this short video.

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 replaced their own faulty immune cells, stopping the autoimmune attack. And they followed up by injecting 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 soon get approval for human clinical trials.

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