What is stem cell therapy, and how can it help diabetes sufferers?
Care & Medication Diabetes is a chronic disease which is developed when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin (Type 1 diabetes) or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces (Type 2 diabetes).
According to a recent World Health Organisation report, diabetes mellitus is one of the top ten leading causes of death worldwide. In the world every 10 seconds, one patient with diabetes mellitus dies. Average life expectancy for children with diabetes mellitus doesn't exceed 28 years from the time of their diagnosis. It is important to note that if diabetes mellitus isn’t treated properly, it can cause a huge amount of damage: to the eyes (leading to blindness), kidneys (leading to renal failure), nerves (leading to impotence, foot disorders such as diabetic foot ulcers, painful muscle wasting and weakness, as well as altered pain sensation), heart and blood vessels (development of cardiovascular diseases such as coronary artery disease, myocardial infarction, stroke and insufficiency in blood flow to legs-peripheral vascular disease).
The existing standard treatment for patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus consists of lifelong exogenous insulin administration, which is often associated with debilitating hypoglycemic episodes. This can be inconvenient for the patient and does not completely prevent the development of diabetic complications. In its early stages, Type 2 diabetes mellitus can be treated by oral hypoglycemic medication. However, eventually, patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus become insulin dependent. Insulin injections are therefore also used in the therapy of type 2 diabetes mellitus. There are differences between treatments, though. Exogenous insulin cannot provide the tight glycemic control that pancreas-derived insulin can.
What is stem cell therapy?
Mesenchymal stem cell therapy represents a highly promising therapeutic approach for patients with diabetes mellitus. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) possess the ability to differentiate into insulin-producing cells, as well as ameliorate immune injury through immunomodulation. These unique properties of MSCs make them highly effective in the treatment of diabetes mellitus as well as in the prevention of diabetic complications.
There are two ways to deliver stem cells into the body:
- Interventional therapy: stem cells are infused directly into the pancreas through a femoral artery catheter;
- Intravenous infusion.
Stem cell therapy can be extremely beneficial, and several positive outcomes can be observed as a result of it. These include a progressive reduction of required insulin dosage, a reduction in quantity and/or dosage of required hypoglycemic drugs or even discontinuation of them, an improvement in glucose control (decrease of glycosylated hemoglobin levels), and an increase of C-peptide serum levels (indicating the endogenous insulin secretion and confirming the recovery and regeneration of islet β-cells). In addition, many patients notice that they become more physically and sexually active after stem cell therapy. One of the approaches to treat rectal dysfunction is the infusion of stem cells locally into the penis. As a result, as the stem cells regenerate tissues, patients’ sex lives gradually return to their usual level. Enhancement of stamina, restoration of vigor, desire and ability have been observed after treatment. It has been proven that the administration of MSCs is safe. For achieving the best results it is necessary to conduct at least 2 courses of stem cell therapy.
When to have stem cell therapy
It is extremely important to emphasise that at the clinical onset of type 1 diabetes mellitus in most patients, only 20-30% of their original β-cells remain. Moreover, with the progression of disease, these preserved β-cells will also be destroyed. This can lead to poor glucose control and development of serious diabetic complications. Therefore, stem cell therapy should be started in patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus as soon as possible in order to save a larger number of residual functioning β-cells. It is also crucial for patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus to start stem cell therapy as soon as possible given that, over time, enhanced functioning of pancreatic beta-cells could lead to chronic exhaustion. Stem cell therapy could improve your quality of life!