Type 1 diabetes patients must give themselves regular insulin injections to control blood-sugar levels. Failure to do so can result in death. People with type 1 are unable to produce the insulin hormone naturally because an auto-immune disorder which destroys the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas. By extracting stem cells from the patient, suppressing the immune system with chemotherapy to eliminate the white blood cells attacking the beta cells, and then re-introducing the stem cells, a new immune system is created.
Using the patients own stem cells eliminates the danger of rejection in most cases. Of the 15 patients treated in the study, 14 patients were insulin-free for varying periods of time following the treatment. Eleven quit using insulin right after the stem cell transfusion and haven't used synthetic insulin since. Two subjects required insulin for 12 to 20 months after treatment; the one patient who went 12 months relapsed after a viral infection.
This is remarkable progress for the use of adult stem cells. This particular treatment is by far not a cure, but it does represent a giant leap toward a cure. And that cure may be only five to eight years away.