Stem cells are cells that can turn into many different types of cells in the body. They are often derived from bone marrow — the soft inside of bones — and come in several different forms. While stem cells have been widely studied for use in experimental treatments for many different health conditions, they are part of an established treatment for only a few conditions, including certain blood and bone cancers.
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For the latest study, researchers wanted to determine that one type of stem cell therapy — involving mesenchymal stem/stromal cells (BM-MSCs) derived from bone marrow — was safe in people with type 2 diabetes, and also evaluate its potential benefits for people with the condition. A total of 30 participants with type 2 enrolled in the study, and they were randomly assigned in equal numbers to receive blood infusions of their own stem cells in one of two locations in the body — either into a vein, or into a dorsal pancreatic artery (which supplies blood to the pancreas). During 12 months of follow-up after the treatment, safety was monitored based on any adverse events, and effectiveness was judged based on changes in A1C (a measure of long-term blood glucose control), fasting glucose levels, and C-peptide levels (a measure of inflammation).
Stem cell therapy found safe and effective
The researchers found that the stem cell therapy was well tolerated and safe in all 30 participants. In particular, the therapy was found to be beneficial in participants with a diabetes duration of less than 10 years and a body-mass index (a measure of body weight that takes height into account) below 23, indicating that they weren’t overweight or obese. More than half of the study participants were able to reduce their use of medications for diabetes while maintaining adequate blood glucose control, as noted in a press release on the study. The therapy appeared to be just as beneficial whether it was administered into a vein or into a dorsal pancreatic artery.
“Our trial, the first to link the outcomes of autologous bone marrow stromal stem cell transplantation with body mass index and type 2 diabetes duration, shows the procedure is safe and opens the way for other clinical trials exploring the potential benefits of this treatment,” said study author Liem Thanh Nguyen, research director at the Vinmec Research Institute of Stem Cell and Gene Technology in Hanoi, Vietnam, in the press release.
The researchers noted that while their results show that this stem cell therapy is promising for type 2 diabetes, more research is needed to understand why it works so much better in people with a shorter duration of diabetes who aren’t overweight. That research, they wrote, may lead to tailored therapies based on the unique characteristics of a person’s diabetes and other health conditions.
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