Type 1 diabetes is more than just a disease. It is a lifestyle, a burden, a threat, and an identity.
Living with type 1 diabetes means living with a lifetime of injections, blood samples, dizzy spells, and scary spikes in blood sugar. The disease is the result of a defective immune system. Really, it is an autoimmune disease.
Instead of attacking foreign invaders that can potentially compromise your health, your immune system attacks its own insulin-producing beta cells.
(Actually, recent research has shown that these beta cells have a genetic defect that the immune system seeks out. But I digress.)
When the immune system eliminates the beta cells, it rips you of the only way that the body has to provide insulin. As a result, people with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin shots daily for the rest of their lives.
Well, a team of researchers may have found an end to that.
In a pilot study, researchers injected insulin-producing islet cells into the abdomen of a woman with type 1 diabetes. The idea was to introduce this new form of self-sustaining insulin into the body in order to eventually wean the patient off of her insulin injections.
What ended up happening shocked everyone.
Instead of waiting around to see how the islet cells took to the body, they started working immediately. They were so effective at producing insulin that the patient stopped her insulin shots altogether.
A year after the initial injection and she is still insulin shot free.
For obvious reasons, everyone involved in the study is very excited. As this is a young study without much replication as of yet, it’s hard to say if these results will be standard with this sort of treatment. Naturally, they are looking forward to more research on this form of treatment.
The islet cells are harvested from deceased donors and then transplanted into type 1 diabetes patients. Even though this is all exciting stuff, it’s not necessarily a treatment option for everyone. Since these cells come from another host body, the immune system of the patient may attack the incoming islet cells just like it attacked the beta cells. During the transplant period, the patient must take immune-suppressing medication to ensure that the islet cells are accepted.
Stay tuned for more information!
Web MD. URL Link. Retrieved May 11, 2017.