The Journal of the American Medical Association has published a study – free online here – that describes successful treatment of 13 patients with their own stem cells. Some of the patients have been able to go without insulin or any other medications to control their diabetes.
15 patients with new onset “Juvenile Onset,” “Insulin Dependent,” or Type I diabetes received shots to stimulate production of their own bone marrow stem cells. Those cells were collected by “leukapheresis,” a process where the blood is filtered to remove specific cells.
The bone marrow was killed and the patients received anti-thymocite antibodies to wipe out more of the white blood cells (from the thymus that might not be in the bone marrow.
Then, the patients received their own bone marrow stem cells.
During a 7- to 36-month follow-up (mean 18.8), 14 patients became insulin free
(1 for 35 months, 4 for at least 21 months, 7 for at least 6 months; and 2 with late response were insulin-free for 1 and 5 months, respectively).
Just as Dr. John Willerson of the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston did a few years ago to explore the use of adult stem cells in the treatment of heart disease, Dr. Richard Burt of Northwestern University in Chicago went down to Brazil in order to perform the research. It was easier to receive permission from the local ethics board to use stem cell transplants – actually, an autologous bone marrow transplant.
The news reporters and some bloggers are criticizing the research for a lack of controls as well as the use of teen subjects.
Tell me – if your son or daughter were diagnosed tomorrow with insulin dependent diabetes, would you look into a plane trip to Brazil?