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Eastern Virginia Medical School Studies Stem Cell Treatments for Diabetes

Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) is conducting this double blind study on the effectiveness of a new therapy using adult stem cells to treat type 1 diabetes.

June 12, 2009, Stephanie Harris at Virginia NBC affiliate station WAVY reports on a clinical trial using stem cells to treat type 1 diabetes.  The story interviews trial participant Sarah Piscitelli, a 23-year-old college student who was recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.  In this study, the stem cells are harvested from the bone marrow of healthy donors and then infused intravenously into the patient. Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) is conducting this double blind study on the effectiveness of a new therapy using adult stem cells to treat type 1 diabetes.

Specifically, researchers are looking to understand the how stem cell treatments will affect beta cells.  Normally, beta cells help to regulate the body’s blood sugar levels by releasing insulin. In type 1 diabetics, however, beta cells are destroyed, inhibiting the body’s ability to produce insulin. 

Researchers anticipate that the stem cells either slow down or stop the destruction of the beta cells, thus enabling the body to continue producing insulin on its own.  A key to this trial is to find patients who are newly diagnosed with diabetes, before the body has destroyed all of its beta cells.  Sarah began the study less than four months after being diagnosed.

"The idea of giving these stem cells is that they hone in on the beta cells and stop the killing that allows them A) to recover and B) to preserve what they have," said Dr. Aaron Vinik, who is leading the study at Eastern Virginia Medical School.

The researchers will be able to determine and report on the extent of this stem cell treatment’s effectiveness in two years.


EVMS studies stem cell diabetes therapy
Updated: Friday, 12 Jun 2009, 5:33 PM EDT
Published : Friday, 12 Jun 2009, 5:32 PM EDT
Stephanie Harris

NORFOLK, Va. - College student Sarah Piscitelli had her studies down to a science, but when doctors diagnosed the 23-year-old with type one diabetes things changed. "I would be presenting a paper and all of a sudden forget my words because I was having low blood glucose levels," she told WAVY.com.

Hooked up to an IV drip, Piscitelli said she hopes what's in the bag will help her get back to normal.  It's a therapy containing adult stem cells (or a placebo, since this is a double blind study).

The bone marrow stem cells are taken right from the blood of healthy donors, then infused into the patient.
Researchers are studying how the stem cells will effect beta cells. Beta cells are the ones that release insulin when your body needs it and are killed in patients with Type 1 Diabetes.

"The idea of giving these stem cells is that they hone in on the beta cells and stop the killing that allows them A) to recover and B) to preserve what they have," said Dr. Aaron Vinik, who is leading the study at Eastern Virginia Medical School.

Dr. Vinik says the catch is you have to start the treatment soon after diagnosis, before all the beta cells are gone.

Sarah began the study less than 16 weeks after her diagnosis. "She'll get about 100-million cells at a time, no one really knows how many we have to give," he said.

Sarah says so far the only downside is a strange odor and taste of garlic.

Dr. Vinik says that's from the solution used to keep the stem cells separated and it won't hurt her.
Whether the therapy will help they still won't know for two more years but they are hopeful.

To be eligible for the study you must be diagnosed within the last 16 weeks with type one diabetes and be between the ages of 18 and 30.

You may contact Pat Barlow, RN  at 757-446-7258 or email her at  barlowpm@evms.edu

 

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