NORFOLK -- Scientists have cloned the insulin cells of a 32-year-old woman diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes at age ten and created insulin-producing cells with her own DNA.
Dieter Egli, of the New York Stem Cell Foundation Research Institute in New York, led the research, which was published Monday in Nature.
Diabetes is a common chronic disease in children and adolescents, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Each year, more than 13,000 young people are diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes.
Dr. Margarita DeVeciana is a Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation board member and Maternal Fetal Specialist with Eastern Virginia Medical School. She says the announcement is extremely exciting.
"It holds great promise for the future treatment of diabetes with truly the option for finding a cure for diabetes, particularly when it comes to Type-1 diabetes," she said. "Up until now, we have made great advances in terms of insulin delivery, but the possibility of being able to recreate the patients destroyed pancreatic insulin-producing cells is really quite mind blowing. Not to mention, that the same technology used for this may be applied in the future with many other chronic diseases."
DeVeciana says she's a believer in the potential for a cure and in the potential use of umbilical cord stem cells as a potential cure for those who develop Type-1 diabetes later in life.
"If your mom and dad have Type-1 diabetes, your risk of developing Type-1 diabetes may be as high as 12 to 15 percent. If mom only has it, the risk is about five percent. And if dad only has it, the risk is about 10 percent. If you ask me, saving your cord blood stem cells may be better than buying life insurance for some folks," DeVeciana said.
While some scientists are looking for a cure for Type-1 diabetes, others are looking for a cause.
EVMS is currently asking whether diabetes is caused by a virus, and if so, can a vaccination be created one day?
EVMS professor and Vice Dean of Research, Dr. Jerry Nadler, is leading the investigation and is analyzing whether donor pancreatic tissue contains proof of a virus. The team of scientists have been researching for more than a year and will continue for four more years. No data findings have been released at this point.