Thursday, March 22, 2012
Lauren Maroney 42937441
Everyone can agree that we would all love to live a long, healthy and prosperous life. Unfortunately, this is not always the case for some people. Chronic disease dominates many people’s lives and Type 1 Diabetes does just that. If affects around 250 million individuals worldwide and that number grows at an alarming rate each day. With Type 1 Diabetes your immune system attacks the insulin producing cells within your pancreas. These are crucial because without the insulin, sugars we eat have no way to gain access to your cells so they build up in your bloodstream, increasing the concentration of glucose. Insulin is necessary in the body as it takes glucose from the carbohydrates we eat to the cells in your body that need sustenance. Because the cells don’t get the energy they need to function they begin to waste away (seen in figure 1) (KidsHealth, 1995). Currently there is no cure for this autoimmune disease so a person must inject insulin multiple times a day to counteract the increase in blood sugar levels. Both scientists and researchers are working together exploring cell replacement therapy as a potential strategy to cure this devastating disease.
Does an animal as simple as a rat hold the cure to Type 1 Diabetes? With experimentation through the extraction of neural stem cells from rats, scientists have been able to develop these into pancreatic cells that can produce insulin to treat diabetes. The procedure involves removing small amounts of tissue from the memory gland within the rat’s brain; and then pulling the tissue out through the rat’s nose. These stem cells are then exposed to a human protein (Wnt3a) which switches on insulin production. After the exposure to the protein, for the duration of two weeks, the stem cells multiply to replace the amount lost through the duration of Diabetes. Once completed, the next step involves placing the stem cells into the pancreas of the rat. This experiment successfully tackled diabetes for nineteen weeks, however, to ensure accuracy the stem cells were then removed from the rats’ pancreas and sure enough the diabetes returned (Coghlan A, 2011). It is understandable that while this may work in rats, utilising stem cells to cure Type 1 Diabetes in humans will require additional knowledge and experimentation, as removing neural stem cells from the memory gland in the brain of humans could be life threatening and not something to just ‘experiment’ on.
Type 1 Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects millions of people worldwide. It occurs when the pancreas stops producing insulin to turn glucose we eat, into energy. In this case, in order to survive, it means that daily injections of insulin must be given. Current experimentation has led scientist’s one step closer to a breakthrough for a cure of this disease with the most recent discovery being of extracting neural cells from the memory gland in the brain of rats. While this experiment showed promising results, it is clear that the extraction of neural stem cells from humans to cure Type 1 Diabetes is still uncertain and much more knowledge must be gained before the hopes are raised of the 250 million sufferers.
KidsHealth. (1995). Retrieved March 17, 2012, from Type 1 Diabetes: What is it?: http://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/endocrine/type1.html
Charles A. Goldthwaite, J. P. (2010, September 21). Stem Cell Information. Retrieved March 16, 2012, from Are Stem Cells the Next Frontier for Diabetes Treatment?: http://stemcells.nih.gov/info/2006report/2006Chapter7.htm
Coghlan, A. (2011, October 7). NewScientist. Retrieved March 17, 2012, from Diabetic rats cured with their own stem cells: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn21019-diabetic-rats-cured-with-their-own-stem-cells.html