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February 7, 2003

Research: Cure

Question from Lebanon:

Kindly advise if there are any new methods available to cure diabetes. Are stem cells one of the future methods to cure this, and when will it be realized?

Answer:

At present there is no cure for type 1 diabetes, which is probably what your child has. The nearest approach is likely to be an implanted glucose sensor that sends a radio signal to an external monitor that could be reliably hooked up to a insulin pump.

Next in line is likely to be some form of transplantation using surrogate insulin producing cells, perhaps stem cells, together with a much simplified method of producing graft tolerance. This is at least ten years away. A very recent long shot possibility would be the single injection of a transcription factor Pdx1 which could induce liver stem cells to convert to related pancreas stem cells, but so far this has only been achieved in tadpoles!

Take heart though, huge efforts are being made to resolve this.

DOB