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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Stem Cells into Insulin-Producing Cells

Stem cells? The shortage of donor tissue supply is a major challenge in the islet cell transplantation treatment for type 1 diabetes. Why? Because patients frequently need islet cells after the first treatment and this will require another donor. Have no fear for the researchers at the Diabetes Research Institute of the University of Miami could perhaps ease the problem.

Before, researchers only fairly succeeded in distinguishing either adult stem cells or embryonic stem cells that turn into insulin-producing beta cells. The reason behind this is because they needed to bring on the culture environment to succeed. The islets need a high quantity of oxygen for health and herein lies the problem.

But the UM researchers produced a new device called "oxygen sandwich" to give the cells a better oxygen environment. Chris Fraker, senior research associate in the Tissue Engineering Laboratory at the Diabetes Research Center, designed the oxygen sandwich which is a close copy of the natural oxygen environment. The use of this helps differentiate the insulin-producing cells and opens the way to more treatment.

What is a stem cell transplant? It is the infusion of healthy stem cells into the body. Why is this an option? It is because the bone marrow stops functioning and doesn't produce adequate number of healthy stem cells. A stem cell transplant can aid the body make enough healthy white blood cells, red blood cells or platelets. This will also reduce the risk of infections, anemia and bleeding that could threaten life.

Even though the process to restock the body's supply of healthy blood-forming cells is called a stem cell transplant, it's also known as an umbilical cord blood transplant or a bone marrow transplant. The name will depend on where the stem cells were taken.

The stem cell transplant is called autologous stem cell transplant if the source of the cells is one's own body and allogenic stem cell transplant if the cells used are from other donors. There is more information at this site on diabetes stem cells.


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