Monday, December 6, 2010

Can Stem Cells Cure Type 2 Diabetes?

A reader asks us, "If stem cells have the potential to cure type 1 diabetes, can they also cure type 2 diabetes?"

Robert knows a researcher who has been involved in perfecting the procedure of transforming skin cells into stem cells to make the insulin-producing beta cells without using any human embryo tissue at all. There are two people who have had the procedure, and at least for the first two years, they were doing well. The research is funded by Novo Nordisk, which makes insulin, so it may be a long time before we hear more!

This process, however, would not help most people with type 2 diabetes. That is because the problem in type 2 diabetes is, at least at first, not the inability to make insulin, which may be restored with stem cells, but rather a phenomenon known as insulin resistance. Even if a type 2 diabetic were to receive stem cell treatment and the treatment worked, blood sugar levels would remain high until insulin resistance symptoms were corrected. However, as we point out over and over again, insulin resistance can be corrected.

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