The usage of mesenchymal stem cells in the treatment of type 1 diabetes mellitus
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Type 1 diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disorder characterized by an autoimmune attack against the insulin producing Beta-cells of the pancreas. Also known as insulin-dependent diabetes, patients must receive exogenous injections of insulin in order to maintain glycemic homeostasis. The necessity of monitoring one’s own blood glucose levels and self-administering insulin is a tedious routine for type 1 diabetics, and this standard treatment option fails to treat any of the underlying causes of the disease. According to van Belle et al, the prevalence of diabetes is rising worldwide amongst all age-groups, from 2.8% in 2000 to an estimated 4.4% by 2030, thus the need to find a more curative treatment approach is eminent. In the emerging field of regenerative medicine, mesenchymal stem cells have been identified as a possible therapeutic tool to replace damaged parenchymal tissue. Along with their ability to modulate the local microenvironment, the introduction of properly differentiated mesenchymal stem cells into patients with Type 1 diabetes may provide a treatment option that helps supplement the lost islet cells without provoking an immune response. Preliminary clinical trials have shown that stem cell therapy decreases the amount of exogenous insulin required daily, decreases fasting glucose levels, decreases amount of glycated hemoglobin and increases C-peptide levels. These four indicators of diabetic control suggest that mesenchymal stem cells are an effective means of helping manage Type 1 diabetes. Still, much research needs to be done to fully understand the biomechanics behind the cells’ actions in order to expand human clinical trials. Although complete insulin independence is rarely achieved in patients receiving mesenchymal stem cell treatment, the promising results shown so far suggest more studies be undertaken in hopes of finding a corrective approach to treat Type 1 diabetes.
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