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Advances in health and medicine.
Marjorie Bekaert Thomas
Advances in health and medicine.

This section will feature a weekly report which generated a lot of interest when it was first featured on the Medical Breakthroughs site. Come back weekly to read each highlight as we "Play It Again!"
Reported July 2015 Email a Friend

Stem Cells for Diabetes

SAN DIEGO. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- 1.2 million Americans have type I diabetes, a disease where the immune system stops the pancreas from making insulin. Patients rely on daily blood sugar checks and insulin injections to survive. But now, there’s hope on the horizon.  Researchers are conducting the first study to look at embryonic stem cells for type-one diabetes.

Jeremy Pettus, MD, Associate Professor at the University of California, San Diego has checked his blood sugar every day, several times a day, for the past 20 years.

Dr. Pettus told Ivanhoe, “I figured out the other day, I think I’ve checked my blood sugar somewhere in-between 40-50,000 times in my life.”

Jeremy has type I diabetes. His pancreas doesn’t make insulin, so he has to inject his own.

“It’s tough you know.  It’s not any easy disease,” he explained.

But Jeremy isn’t just a patient with the disease; he’s also a doctor who wants to cure it.

Dr. Pettus said, “It would be absolutely life-changing.”

Jeremy and Robert Henry, MD, Endocrinologist at the University of California, San Diego, are conducting the first study in humans to see if embryonic stem cells can help patients with type I diabetes make insulin.

Dr. Henry told Ivanhoe, “I think this is the most exciting thing that’s happened!”

The stem cells are grown in the lab and programmed to develop into islet cells — the special cells in the pancreas that normally produce insulin. Then they are placed in a special capsule to prevent immune rejection.

“Then that’s placed underneath the skin in patients with type I diabetes” Dr. Henry explained.

In animal studies, the stem cells secreted insulin and regulated blood sugar levels. Researchers are hoping for the same in humans. They are studying 40 patients in a phase one safety trial. If it works, it could change millions of lives, including Jeremy’s.

Dr. Pettus said, “It would be the greatest thing ever.” 

Type I diabetes typically affects children and young adults, but older adults can also be diagnosed with the disease. For more information on this clinical trial, log onto  

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Marsha Hitchcock, Field Producer; Cortni Spearman, Assistant Producer; Jamison Koczan, Editor and Rusty Reed, Videographer. 


More Information

Click here for additional research on Stem Cells for Diabetes.

Click here for Ivanhoe's full-length interview with Dr. Robert Henry.

If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas,   

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