There was a fairly in-depth article about this in yesterday's Boston Globe, too.
It does sound exciting, but having seen so many "miracle cures" in the past (islet cell transplantation comes to mind) that sounded good in the lab but didn't make it in reality, I'm a confirmed skeptic. That's not to say that I wouldn't just LOVE to be proved wrong, lol, but I'm not holding my breath waiting!
There ARE a couple of problems with this though... like they said, in T1s, there's nothing stopping the immune system from just destroying these beta cells again. Also, are these functioning exactly like a non-diabetic's beta cells, or are they just constantly pumping out insulin no matter what? That could be a huge issue... you'd basically be creating an insulinoma...
The article doesn't say, are these cells cultured, or from the patient, because then you have the same issue of islet cell transplant basically... you'd be trading insulin for a handful of immune suppressing drugs each day. I have a T1 doctor who had a pancreas transplant. It's working really well and she has been insulin free for over a year and a half, but she still MUST test 4x each day, and she knows its just a brief reprieve from insulin shots. Transplants only have a life span of 5-10 years, and given the autoimmunity issue of T1s, the pancreas just gets attacked again.
As for the cells being used for T2s, doesn't it all come down to the same thing... you're just giving T2s back the ability to produce insulin, but for how long??? T2 can be controlled for a while with just exercise and such, but most people end up needing insulin anyhow... what's stopping that from happening with the new cells. I guess if you just keep creating more beta cells you could stave off needing insulin indefinitely, but it would be SO expensive and impractical.
Recreating the insulin production is only half the battle.
For T1s, the other half is stopping them from being killed. I am not sure they are any further advanced on solving this problem. Maybe solving half the problem will spur more research into solving the other half.
For T2s the amount of time it takes to lose insulin production is much greater than T1. If it took 10 years to lose insulin production and you can buy yourself another 10 years, that's great. If you are helped by weight loss, diet excercise and medication you can prolong that time even more.
This research provides one piece of the big puzzle. Other meds/solutions are required to fix the insulin resistance problems, auto-immune system problems....
But if you look where we were 10 years ago and where we will be 10 years from now, I suspect we will be way ahead.
God forbid I pass on this crappy disease to my children, at least there's hope they may have better solutions.
Last edited by mod-anon; 08-28-2008 at 12:45 PM.
Reason: removed quote