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January 19, 2001

Research: Cure

Question from Phoenix, Arizona, USA:

I'm middle aged man with type 2 diabetes. I heard of an new treatment in Canada in which diabetes was cured by injecting the pancreas with blood from placenta or birth cord from the mother of a newborn. This regenerates the pancreas to work normally again. Is there any truth to this? The only thing I could find was the Islet cell transplant work in Canada. Could this be what they were talking about?

Answer:

I think that you may have confused the recent successes with transplanting islet cells in type 1A (autoimmune) diabetes that has taken place in Edmonton with attempts to achieve a similar end result with stem cells. This latter technology is tantalizing and has worked in some anemias and in Parkinsonism, but so far, not for diabetes. Recently, another group in Calgary also reported some very exciting work in genetic engineering for diabetes, but still in mice only, I’m afraid.

DOB