Study Shows Adult Stem Cell Research Helps Diabetes as Senate Debates

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 11, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Study Shows Adult Stem Cell Research Helps Diabetes as Senate Debates Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 11
, 2007

Washington, DC ( — As the Senate debates whether or not to force taxpayers to fund embryonic stem cell research which involves the destruction of human life, a new study shows that adult stem cells were able to spur prolonged insulin independence in patients with diabetes.

Researchers from Brazil found success with transplanting adult stem cells into patients with newly diagnosed type 1, or insulin-dependent, diabetes.

Dr. Julio C. Voltarelli, from the Regional Blood Center, told Reuters the results were "very encouraging" and he said it was the first time a treatment had been used in human type 1 diabetes.

The study involved 15 diabetic patients and who had been diagnosed in the previous six weeks and required insulin. The doctors harvested the patients’ own stem cells and injected them intravenously.

In the follow-up, 14 of the patients became insulin free — 1 for 35 months, 4 for at least 12 months, and 7 patients for at least 6 months. Two patients responded later to the treatments and were insulin free for one and fifteen months respectively.

The authors wrote a report on their study in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s April 11 edition.

“Very encouraging results were obtained in a small number of patients with early-onset disease,” the authors wrote. "Ninety-three per cent of patients achieved different periods of insulin independence and treatment-related toxicity was low, with no mortality.”

Richard Burt, a co-author of the study from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, talked with the London Guardian about the results.

“As a research scientist I am always hesitant to speak of a cure, but the initial results have been good and show the importance of conducting more trials,” Dr. Burt said.

More testing is needed, but he’s hopeful the adult stem cell studies will yield more widespread treatments.

“It will probably be five to eight years before we see a treatment being widely available,” he said.