In recent years, stem cells have been tested to treat all kinds of conditions. Researchers now are beginning to examine whether the cells can be used to combat inflammation in those with Type 2 diabetes.
A multisite study determined that administering what are called mesenchymal precursor stem cells (MPCs) can be a safe treatment for treating inflammation in people who have Type 2 diabetes. They also found some unofficial evidence that the treatment can improve blood sugar scores in those with Type 2.
The Diabetes Research Institute-led study gave 61 adults who had poorly maintained diabetes either a placebo or rexlemestrocel-L, the stem cell product, which is harvested from bone marrow of volunteers. Researchers wanted to see if stem cell treatments could reverse inflammation, which causes insulin resistance and decreased beta cell function in people with diabetes.
This safety study was the first step in examining this treatment’s potential. All experimental treatments must be proven safe to use before researchers focus on effectiveness. Along with assuring the basic safety of the treatment, the research team was checking to see if there would be any signs of stem cell rejection. The stem cell treatment was given to adults in the experimental group in escalating dose amounts over a 12-week period, reaching as high as 246 million cells in a single patient, and with no acute adverse events recorded.
Researchers also noticed the treatment gave participants reduced blood sugar levels, with the greatest reduction in A1C scores occurring in those who received the highest dose of stem cells. However, those results are unofficial, as this study focused primarily on the treatment’s safety.
Principal investigator Dr. Jay Skyler, who serves as deputy director for clinical research and academic programs at the institute, said that he and his colleagues were pleased with the results.
“It went exactly as we thought it might go,” Dr. Skyler said in a phone interview. “We adequately demonstrated that there’s no safety issue that would stop us from going ahead to a full trial, so we’re very happy.”
The stem cell manufacturer has been contacted about conducting further research, said Dr. Skyler, but the manufacturer is currently booked with other studies. The hope is that the institute can continue this research in the near future.
“I’m quite hopeful that we’re going to see diabetes with a totally different face a decade from now,” Dr. Skyler said.