Stem cells could cure diabetes

The problem: Diabetes can cause serious complications, even with proper insulin treatments to manage the disease. A man in China, for example, needed a kidney transplant and was losing function in his pancreas after living with Type 2 diabetes for 25 years.

The solution: Researchers used stem cells to create something similar to pancreatic islet cells, which regulate blood sugar levels by producing insulin and other hormones. That same man in China received a cell transplant in 2021 and began weaning off external insulin 11 weeks later. A new study showed that he has now been without insulin treatments for 33 months, effectively showing that the diabetes was no longer damaging his body.

What’s next: This is the first real-world evidence backing up a University of British Columbia study published earlier this year suggesting stem cells could make enough insulin-producing cells for a widely available therapeutic treatment or even cure for diabetes. The Chinese researchers said, however, that future research on subtypes of diabetes and generating more universal islet cells was needed to make an off-the-shelf treatment viable.