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Chinese scientists cure diabetes using stem cells

The historic breakthrough was achieved in a patient with type 2 diabetes through a pioneering cell therapy treatment

Shanghai scientists achieved a historic breakthrough after successfully eliminating a patient's type 2 diabetes long-term using a pioneering cell therapy treatment.

The 59-year-old patient received a pancreatic cell transplant derived from his own stem cells in 2021. He is now insulin independent.

This marks the world's first successful use of stem cell-derived islet transplantation to cure diabetes.

The achievement, published in Cell Discovery on April 30, comes after more than a decade of research at Changzheng Hospital in Shanghai, nextshark reviewed in a press release.

Some key details

Diabetes is a major health threat, affecting 422 million people worldwide. While there is still no known cure for diabetes, management methods include insulin injections and other medications.

The patient reportedly suffered a significant decline in the function of his pancreatic islets, which regulate blood sugar, after undergoing a kidney transplant in 2017. Since then, he had relied on multiple daily insulin injections.

In July 2021, a hospital team led by researcher Yin Hao used the patient's own blood cells to create stem cells, which then became pancreatic islet cells.

The transplant successfully eliminated the patient's need for external insulin within 11 weeks. Oral medication was also gradually reduced and finally discontinued a year later.

Follow-up examinations showed restored pancreatic function and normal kidney function, suggesting that the patient has been cured.

Next steps

In 2023, the FDA approved a similar cell therapy treatment by a Chicago-based startup for type 1 diabetes.

Chinese researchers say more research is needed to confirm the long-term effectiveness and expand the applicability of this treatment.

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