A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from NSI, the National Stem Cell Institute, that contained their latest newsletter. This one focused on using adipose tissue-derived stem cells to repair meniscus tears. This caught my eye because three of my fellow cyclists had avoided surgery by having this procedure done. I was interested in all the other things that stem cell therapy could be used for, and if you visit the NSI website you will find no less than 25 conditions for which there are documented treatments; but reversing diabetes was not one.
Over the years, we have heard many promising possibilities on the use of stem cells for causing beta cell regeneration. In 2006, we reported on how there would be a stem cell “cure” for type one diabetes in four years.
in 2009, our own advisory board member Dr. Aaron Vinik was working with Prochymal, an investigational therapy developed by Osiris Therapeutics, Inc. containing stem cells from healthy adult volunteer donors. When the stem cells found in Prochymal were delivered intravenously, in combination with standard care, it was thought that the compound could slow beta cell death and promote the regeneration of tissues damaged in the inflammatory process. Although this never became a viable “cure” for diabetes, the product has become very successful for acute and steroid-refractory Graft versus Host Disease.
It has been a long and hard road for the use of stem cells as a “cure” for diabetes. To catch up with the latest research, we reached out to Jon Odorico, Professor of Surgery at the University of Wisconsin, Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, at the recent ADA meeting in Orlando. Dr. Odorico gave us an update on what is going on and what researchers are doing to overcome the current challenges.