US researchers have developed a new way to reverse type 1 diabetes in monkeys, raising the possibility of a more effective cure for the condition.
Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas either fails to produce, or produces very little insulin – the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels.
In the study, led by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), the team took key insulin-producing beta cells from the pancreas, in a non-diabetic monkey, and transplanted them into the omentum (the fatty tissue that surrounds the stomach and intestines) of monkeys with type 1 diabetes.
By doing this, the blood sugar levels of the diabetic monkeys went back to normal and the transplanted cells began to secrete insulin, effectively reversing the animals’ condition.
Current experimental methods transplant beta cells to the liver, but can result in up to half of the cells being lost.