Often known as “juvenile diabetes” or “insulin-deficient diabetes mellitus”, type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that often develops among children or teenagers. This life-long disease is caused by an inflammatory against beta cells in the pancreatic islets. These cells are responsible for the production and secretion of insulin. After they are damaged by an autoimmune inflammatory reaction, the body is unable to continue producing insulin.
Unlike its type-2 counterpart, type 1 diabetes is characterized by a gradual and eventually complete deficiency in insulin production.
Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes
During its early stages, type 1 diabetes causes increased thirst and urination, as well as extreme hunger and rapid weight loss. These symptoms occur as the body abruptly loses the ability to gain energy from sugars.
As the disease progresses into adulthood, more complications appear due to the accumulation of glucose across the organism. These include:
- Progressive loss of vision
- Recurrent or refractory infections, especially in the limbs
- Kidney damage
Traditional Management of Type 1 Diabetes
Patients with type 1 diabetes are in need of insulin administration for life, alongside frequent glucose monitoring that determines the insulin requirement that may be changed, and a tightly controlled diet regimen. Unfortunately, in most cases, Type 1 diabetes is diagnosed when all or most insulin production is terminated and then the disease is considered incurable.
Theoretically, the disease can be cured by successful transplantation of pancreatic islets. However, this is an impractical solution to the problem: such treatments make sense for patients with type 1 diabetes with an indication for a kidney transplant, but kidney transplant could be accomplished alongside the harvesting of the pancreas or deceased donor’s pancreatic islet transplantation.
Mesenchymal Stem Cells for Reversing Type 1 Diabetes
New therapies are being developed that promise new options for people who are diagnosed very early with type 1 diabetes, during the so-called pre-diabetic stage.
If the condition is caught before the complete and irreversible destruction of all the insulin-secreting cells, it may be possible to halt the autoimmune process and try to prevent complete destruction of all residual insulin-producing cells. Successful early treatment of pre-diabetes or patients diagnosed during the so-called “honeymoon period” justifies an attempt to apply innovative treatment against the autoimmune process responsible for destruction of pancreatic islets in order to save residual beta cells that could continue producing some insulin. Such patients can then use much lower levels of exogenous insulin, or sometimes even reverse their insulin dependence with adequate dietary control.
At Biotherapy International, we believe that patients who still have residual insulin secreting cells may benefit from treatment with Mesenchymal Stromal Cell (MSCs) therapy. This type of treatment can be used to control the autoimmune-mediated inflammatory reaction that attacks the pancreatic beta cells, a process known as autoimmune insulitis.
This is still theoretical and not yet widely applicable clinically. Nevertheless, there is preliminary experimental evidence that in addition to well-documented therapeutic anti-inflammatory effects, MSCs may also be differentiated into insulin secreting cells. Unfortunately, this observation is still highly experimental and not yet applicable clinically. If this could be combined with the ability to turn off the autoimmune insulitis process, the overall process of type 1 diabetes may be theoretically reversed.
The capacity of MSCs to regulate immune-mediated inflammatory reactions may also help control glucose metabolism, lessen the amount of exogenous insulin needed, and also help to overcome insulin resistance that may develop in response to immune-mediated anti-insulin effects. Besides, control of anti-self-reactivity mediated by MSCs may also help minimize immune-mediated atherosclerosis which represents the main serious complication of type 1 diabetes. Diabetes-related arteriosclerosis can damage all patient’s essential organs including the brain, the heart, the eyes, the kidneys and peripheral blood vessels.