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2024-06-05| ChinaTechnology

Breakthrough Cell Transplant Frees Chinese Patient from Insulin Dependency

by Diana Shih
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Map with drugs. Possible illustration for aids, diabetes, depression and some other diseases.

In a groundbreaking medical breakthrough, doctors in Shanghai have successfully cured a 59-year-old Chinese man of type 2 diabetes through an innovative cell transplant. This marks the first time in the world that diabetes has been cured using stem cell-derived islet transplantation, offering hope to millions of diabetes sufferers globally.

The patient, who had been living with type 2 diabetes for 25 years, underwent the transplant in July 2021 at Shanghai Changzheng Hospital. Prior to the procedure, he relied on multiple daily insulin injections and had undergone a kidney transplant in 2017. His pancreatic islet function, which is critical for regulating blood glucose levels, was severely compromised, putting him at high risk of serious complications.

“Follow-up examinations showed that the patient’s pancreatic islet function was effectively restored,” said Yin Hao, a leading researcher at Shanghai Changzheng Hospital.

Just eleven weeks after the transplant, the patient was free from the need for external insulin, and within a year, he stopped all diabetes medication. As of now, he has been insulin-independent for 33 months.

This significant medical breakthrough was achieved by a team of doctors and researchers from Shanghai Changzheng Hospital, the Centre for Excellence in Molecular Cell Science under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Renji Hospital. The research was published in the Journal Cell Discovery on April 30, 2024.

The procedure involved programming the patient’s own peripheral blood mononuclear cells to create new pancreatic islet tissue. “Our technology has matured and it has pushed boundaries in the field of regenerative medicine for the treatment of diabetes,” Yin added.

The same news was reported by multiple outlets, emphasizing the global impact of this achievement. China Daily highlighted the world-first nature of this treatment, while NextShark and Good News Network both underscored the patient’s journey from reliance on daily insulin injections to complete independence from external insulin.

Read more: China’s New Regulations Fight Against Sedentary Behavior in Children

“I think this study represents an important advance in the field of cell therapy for diabetes,” said Timothy Kieffer, a professor at the University of British Columbia. While preclinical data supports the use of stem cell-derived islets for treating type 2 diabetes, this is the first evidence in humans.

According to the International Diabetes Federation, China has approximately 141 million adults living with diabetes, the highest number of any country worldwide. This breakthrough could significantly impact China’s healthcare system by reducing the burden of chronic diabetes management.

Further research and clinical trials will be necessary to confirm these findings and expand the treatment’s availability, potentially transforming diabetes care worldwide. “If this approach for cell therapy ultimately works, it can free patients from the burden of chronic medications, improve health and quality of life, and reduce healthcare expenditures,” Kieffer added.

This pioneering approach, if validated in further studies, could offer a new lease on life for millions of people suffering from diabetes, marking a significant step forward in the field of regenerative medicine.

References:

  1. Breakthrough by Shanghai doctors uses stem cells to cure diabetes
  2. Chinese scientists cure diabetes using stem cells in world’s first
  3. Can diabetes be cured? Chinese doctors claim breakthrough with cell therapy
  4. IDF Diabetes Atlas
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