Two top universities have teamed up to make important in-roads into finding a cure for Type 1 diabetes.

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What happens when researchers from two top universities team up? In this case, it means some very good news for Type I diabetes sufferers. Researchers from MIT’s David H. Koch Institute and the Harvard Stem Cell Institute along with several other institutions released news in early 2016 of research that may mean a cure for Type I diabetes is within reach. While the research is promising, the new technology is still in the early stages of testing.

 The Research

One of the team scientists, Harvard researcher Doug Melton has been working for over twenty years to find a cure for the disease. He has made significant advances in creating insulin-producing cells from stem cells. Bioengineers from the collaborating institutions then helped find a way to implant these cells, known as beta cells into the bloodstream and protect them from immune system attack. The new technique has initially been tested on mice with very encouraging results. The research published, reported the mice immediately began making insulin once the new beta cells were injected and continued to do so for approximately six months, without producing an anti-inflammatory response.           

What’s a Beta Cell?

A beta cell is an insulin-producing cell which is normally formed in the islets of Langerhans area of the pancreas. When blood glucose levels start to go up these cells respond to produce insulin. However, in those people who have Type 1 diabetes, the cells are attacked or destroyed by the immune system and cannot do the job the body intended them to do.

What Does This Mean?

Melton, the lead researcher, has said that the breakthroughs from this work could mean a true cure for Type I diabetes. The disease and the complications it causes, from blindness and heart disease, to loss of limbs, contribute to hundreds of thousands of deaths annually. This treatment is far more natural and effective than insulin injections, which don’t come close to replicating the body’s actual response to glucose.

Does This Also Mean Help for Type 2 Diabetes Sufferers?

Yes, and no. Those who have Type 2 diabetes and have also become insulin dependent might be helped by this technique. Just how much will require further study.While this research is very promising, it has yet to reach the stage of clinical trials in humans. Researchers will continue to test on research animals until human trials are cleared.

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