Scientists at Harvard University have discovered a major breakthrough in the pursuit of effective treatment for type 1 diabetes.
Experts have created large quantities of insulin-producing beta cells using stem cells. This is the first time Harvard has been able to manufacture the millions of beta cells necessary for transplantation.
Human transplantation
These beta cells function in almost every way as normal beta cells, with hopes now raised that trials for human transplantation could take place within a matter of years.
Trials are currently ongoing to test these stem cell-derived beta cells in animal models, including non-animal primates. After several months, insulin is still being produced by the animals.
Doug Melto, Xander University Professor at Harvard University, said: “It was gratifying to know that we can do something that we always thought was possible. We are now just one pre-clinical step away from the finish line”.
The transplantation of beta cells as a treatment for type 1 diabetes is still experimental, but this advancement, while still in its infancy, will provide optimism to the 400,000 people in Britain with type 1 diabetes that there could be a cure in their lifetimes.
Critical acclaim
The breakthrough at Harvard is being hailed as equal in significance to the discovery of antibiotics, with scientists in the UK full of admiration for the University’s work.
Professor Mark Dunne at Manchester University said: “Overall this is an important advance for the field of diabetes and people with type 1 diabetes”.
Professor Anthony Hollander, Head of Institute of Integrative Biology at the University of Liverpool, added: “This is very exciting fundamental research that solves a major roadblock in the development of a stem cell treatment for diabetes”.

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