A pioneering effort by Canadian scientists involving human embryonic stem cell transplants in diabetic mice has led to reversal of diabetes in these tiny creatures.
The research team demonstrated that as the stem cells matured into insulin-secreting cells (beta-cells in the pancreas), it was possible to wean off insulin in the diabetic mice over a few months.
Lead author Timothy Kieffer said, "It took about four to five months for the (stem) cells to become functional in our experiments and the mice were able to maintain good blood glucose levels even when fed a high-glucose diet."
Though stem cells show potential in the cure of diabetes, there are certain side effects that need to be looked into. For instance, some mice developed bone or cartilage growths in the areas where cells were inserted.
"The fact that we saw cartilage-like cells means that we failed to restrict for only desirable cells and that proves the potential risks of this approach. We need to ensure that we're getting only what we want (insulin-producing cells) and that may be done by improving the cultivation and the recipe or by purifying the cells," Kieffer said.