Type 2 diabetes is a slow-onset metabolic disease, in which the pancreatic cells progressively lose the ability to react to insulin.
Causes of Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 Diabetes usually follows chronically-elevated blood glucose levels. First, the body becomes resistant to insulin and stops reacting to it (pre-diabetes or metabolic disorder). This leads to an increase in insulin production until eventually the beta cells in the pancreatic islets degenerate and stop producing insulin altogether.
Management and Control of Type 2 Diabetes
Traditionally, management of Type 2 diabetes requires major lifestyle changes, starting with diet monitoring and increased physical activity.
In addition, in order to control blood glucose levels effectively, oral medications such as Metformin (Glucophage) may be necessary. Sometimes, this may be accompanied by the use of exogenous insulin injections.
Complications of Type 2 Diabetes
One of the main reasons why type 2 Diabetes garners a lot of attention lately is because of the expensive and complex complications it brings. The disease can induce atherosclerosis and many serious vascular complications. These include retinopathy (degeneration of the retina of the eyes), coronary artery disease, and kidney disease. Furthermore, these vascular problems can create blockages in the peripheral arteries of the legs, which may require an amputation.
Immunity and Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 Diabetes is not an autoimmune disease, but its complications do have an autoimmune component. Some of the vascular problems described above may be mediated by a secondary inflammatory response. Some research shows that this may be at least partially immune-related, due to the immune system’s response to damaged blood vessels.
This opens the potential of using treatment with Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) to control the secondary inflammation behind diabetes complications and to reduce the amounts of drugs or insulin needed to manage the disease. Treatment with MSCs can also help overcome insulin resistance.
Mesenchymal Stem Cell for treating type 2 Diabetes
First, as indicated above, a successful anti-inflammatory treatment course may have secondary metabolic benefits: it can reduce levels of insulin and of other agents needed to control glucose metabolism. Furthermore, treatment with MSCs may help control insulin resistance, which sometimes develops in patients who have heavy insulin requirements due to the development of anti-insulin antibodies. Finally, although type 2 diabetes is considered a metabolic disease, immune mechanisms seem to play an important role in the development of some of its more complex complications, such as arteriosclerosis or atheromas that restrict blood supply to the heart, brain, eyes, kidneys and peripheral arteries.
Although treatment with MSCs is usually not recommended for the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus, it could help patients with very advanced and uncontrolled diabetes. It remains to be seen if other immune modifying agents, MSCs, or MSCs secretory exosomes can have positive therapeutic effects in patients with uncontrolled type 2 diabetes mellitus.