Juvenile Diabetes

Juvenile Diabetes (also known as Type 1 Diabetes) is characterized by an inability of the pancreas to produce sufficient insulin, a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels. It is a disease most often diagnosed in children and young adults. Juvenile Diabetes is the second most common chronic childhood disease. It affects 1.5 million Americans today and there are 15,000 new cases diagnosed every year.66

Clinical Research Trials in Juvenile Diabetes

Clinical research trials have shown potential in slowing the advance of Juvenile Diabetes. A Phase I study conducted by Dr. Michael Haller at the University of Florida, funded by the National Institute of Health and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, was the first attempt to use cord blood stem cells as a therapy for the disease. By infusing cord blood stem cells into the body, scientists were hopeful they could slow down the immune system’s attack on pancreatic cells producing insulin and perhaps replace them. 

Results of the Type 1 Diabetes study showed the treatment to be feasible and safe. Efficacy could not be demonstrated due to the follow-up pilot study's small sample size.116 Still there is strong, strong scientific rationale for autologous umbilical cord blood (UCB) therapies. As such, additional efforts to use autologous UCB in the treatment of type 1 diabetes will continue, with emphasis on improved understanding of UCB regulatory T cell (Treg) function and the potential use of expanded autologous UCB Tregs either alone or in combination with other immunomodulatory agents.

The Regenerative Potential of Cord Tissue MSCs

Human umbilical cord tissue is an abundant source of a special stem cell group known as mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). Human Umbilical Cord Mesenchymal Stem Cells (hUC-MSCs) are being studied in pre-clinical research to determine their potential application in the treatment of Type 1 Diabetes. A report, published in Stem Cell Review authored by Anzalone et al, illustrates recent advances in successfully differentiating hUC-MSCs into mature islet-like clusters that possessed insulin-producing ability in vitro (in the laboratory) and in vivo (in the living organism) in an animal model of diabetes.

The study’s researchers also speculate on how MSCs derived from human umbilical cord tissue may represent a more promising regenerative medicine tool as compared to other sources of MSCs. hUC-MSCs seem to be the preferential source of stem cells to convert into insulin-producing cells, because of the large potential donor pool, its rapid availability, no risk of discomfort for the donor, and low risk of rejection.23

Did You Know?

While there is currently no treatment for Type 1 Diabetes, it can be managed through daily insulin injections and blood sugar monitoring. Maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly are also critical. People with diabetes may experience complications of the eyes, kidneys, nerves and blood vessels as a result of the disease, and are at a heightened risk of heart attacks.

Learn more about Type 1 Diabetes