Chinese scientists cure diabetes using stem cells in world first


Scientists in Shanghai achieved a historic breakthrough after successfully eliminating a long-term patient's type 2 diabetes through a pioneering cell therapy treatment.

Key points:

  • The 59-year-old patient of 25 years received a transplant of pancreatic cells derived from his own stem cells in 2021. He is now insulin independent.

  • This marks the world's first successful use of stem cell-derived islet transplantation to cure diabetes.

  • The achievement, published on Cell Discovery on April 30, comes after over a decade of research at Shanghai Changzheng Hospital.

The details:

  • Diabetes is a major health threat, affecting 422 million people worldwide. While there is still no known cure for diabetes, methods of management include insulin injections and other medications.

  • The patient reportedly suffered a significant decline in pancreatic islet function, which regulates blood sugar, after undergoing a kidney transplant in 2017. Since then, he had been dependent on daily multiple insulin injections.

  • In July 2021, a team at the hospital led by researcher Yin Hao used the patient's own blood cells to create stem cells, which were then converted into pancreatic islet cells.

  • The transplant successfully eliminated the patient's need for external insulin within 11 weeks. Oral medication was also gradually reduced and ultimately discontinued a year later.

  • Follow-up exams showed restored pancreatic function and normal kidney function, suggesting that the patient has been cured.

What's next:

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  • In 2023, the FDA approved a similar cell therapy treatment by a Chicago-based startup for type 1 diabetes.

  • The Chinese researchers say more research is needed to confirm the long-term efficacy and broaden applicability of this treatment.


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