Importance of stem cell research for diabetes and other diseases

Fri, 17 Mar 2006
The world of chronic disease faces an important next decade, in which pharmaceutical research could hold the keys to advanced treatment and even cures. Stem-cell technology, many studies and experts have indicated, is making major inroads into the discovery of new drugs. For diabetes, the ‘holy grail’ is obvious: an available and inexpensive cure, whereby insulin-producing beta islet cells can be transplanted into the pancreas.

Industry expert opinion says that those pharmaceutical companies who successfully integrate stem-cell technologies into their treatments will have the greatest competitive advantage in the marketplace. At the moment, numerous small stem-cell companies are in competition, and looking for financial support and collaborations from the larger pharmaceutical companies. The technology at this level is still primary research for the most part, although some companies are offering proof-of-concept in animal models. The value of stem-cell based discovery and product development is becoming apparent.

Stem cell research is essential for understanding the factors needed to manipulate cell lineages, and for identifying targets for different diseases including diabetes. Stem cells are unspecialised general cells that can differentiate into numerous different types of specialised cells with specific disease-influencing functions. These diseases include cancer, heart disease, spinal cord problems, MS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and diabetes.
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