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Diabetes Cure Achieved by Shanghai Doctors’ Stem Cell Innovation

Breakthrough by Shanghai doctors uses stem cells to cure diabetes

Physicians in Shanghai have accomplished a remarkable breakthrough by treating a patient’s diabetes with pancreatic cells obtained from stem cells, a landmark achievement on a global scale.

The individual, aged 59, had grappled with Type 2 diabetes for twenty-five years and has remained without insulin for thirty-three months, as announced by Shanghai Changzheng Hospital on Tuesday.

The medical milestone, resulting from over a decade of efforts by a team of doctors at the hospital, was detailed in a paper published on April 30 in the journal Cell Discovery.

This breakthrough signifies the inaugural documented instance worldwide of successfully curing diabetes with severely impaired pancreatic islet function through stem cell-derived autologous, regenerative islet transplantation, the hospital reported. The pancreatic islet cells typically generate insulin.

Stem cells Treatment of Diabetes

Diabetes poses a grave health risk, with prolonged poor blood sugar control potentially leading to severe complications such as blindness, kidney failure, cardiovascular issues, and the need for amputation. Additionally, life-threatening scenarios like hypoglycemic coma and ketoacidosis, a rapid fat breakdown, may arise.

China, with the world’s largest diabetic population, faces serious challenges, with approximately 140 million diabetes patients, of which about 40 million rely on lifelong insulin injections, as per the International Diabetes Federation.

Experts emphasize that minimally invasive transplantation, involving islet tissue from a donor’s pancreas, is the most effective treatment for severe diabetes patients grappling with blood sugar control.

However, obstacles like a severe donor shortage and the complexity of islet isolation technology hinder widespread adoption of this treatment. Consequently, regenerating human pancreatic islet tissue in vitro has become a global research focus, as highlighted by the Shanghai team.

Yin Hao, a prominent researcher on the team and director of the hospital’s Organ Transplant Center, outlined their methodology. They reprogrammed the patient’s own peripheral blood mononuclear cells into autologous induced pluripotent stem cells and further transformed them into “seed cells” to reconstruct pancreatic islet tissue in a controlled environment.

“Our technology has advanced memorably, breaking new ground in regenerative medicine for diabetes treatment,” Yin remarked. The research collaboration involved scientists from the Center for Excellence in Molecular Cell Science at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The patient, who faced serious risk of diabetes-related complications, underwent kidney transplant surgery in June 2017. Subsequently, due to diminished pancreatic islet function, they relied on multiple daily insulin injections.

After receiving the transplantation in July 2021, the patient gradually discontinued external insulin within eleven weeks post-surgery. Over the following year, the dosage of oral medications for sugar-level control was tapered and eventually ceased.

“Follow-up examinations indicated effective restoration of the patient’s pancreatic islet function and normal renal function, suggesting that this treatment can deter the progression of diabetic complications,” Yin affirmed.

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