Umbilical cord blood and diabetes mellitus treatment

More and more future parents in Ukraine make a decision to preserve the umbilical cord blood after the birth of their child. Addressing to a cord blood bank, they want to know not only how the biological material is collected and processed but also for the treatment of which diseases the stored cells can be used in future. One of the pathologies in which cord blood stem cells are successfully used right now is diabetes mellitus. Let’s talk about what kind of disease it is, why type 1 and 2 of diabetes mellitus are distinguished and how stem cells, isolated from the cord blood and stored in the cryobank can help treat diabetes.

Diabetes mellitus: types and risk factors for development

According to the World Health Organization, 422 million people worldwide suffer from diabetes mellitus. In Ukraine, according to the official statistics, 1 million 300 thousand people have diabetes, but endocrinologists consider that this number is underestimated, since many people do not suspect being affected with diabetes, in particular its type 2, and do not consult a doctor until they manifest any symptoms, and they sometimes appear at the stage when destructive changes have already occurred in the body. WHO statistics shows that 1 million 500 thousand deaths per year are associated with the effects of diabetes. At the same time, the morbidity is steadily growing, during 40 years it has increased almost four times. Experts attribute this to the lifestyle of a modern person.

Diabetes occurs in two different forms, which are called type 1 and type 2 diabetes. A violation of insulin production in the body is the cause of type 1 diabetes development. The reason for the development of type 2 diabetes is the ineffective use of insulin in metabolic processes of the organism. Type 1 diabetes mellitus is also called insulin-dependent (since patients with this disease are forced to inject insulin regularly) and juvenile (because the disease most often develops in childhood, adolescence and young adults). The causes of its occurrence are not exactly known.

Type 2 diabetes is more common and accounts for about 90% of all cases of this disease. The reasons that cause it are rather associated with lifestyle features: physical inactivity and eating disorders that provoke overweight. Since these risk factors can be influenced, type 2 diabetes is preventable. People with obesity, metabolic syndrome are at risk of developing diabetes mellitus as well as those who had cases of this disease in their family, because it is known that type 2 diabetes can be hereditary.

Regardless of the type of diabetes, hyperglycemia occurs in the blood, that is, elevated sugar level. This indice is the main diagnostic criterion for diabetes. Type 2 diabetes mellitus often remains asymptomatic for a long time: people sometimes do not pay attention to a constant feeling of thirst or increased fatigue, which are symptoms of the disease, for a long time. Typically, this type of diabetes is detected in adults and the elderly. Type 1 diabetes in children can be detected during a routine blood test. However, there are signs that make parents go to the doctor. Among them are polyuria (a large amount of urine produced by the body, frequent excessive urination), constant thirst, weight loss in a child, appetite disorders (very bad or increased), and fatigue. A prolonged increase in blood sugar caused by type 1 or type 2 diabetes leads to vascular damage and the development of complications: trophic ulcers of the lower extremities, diabetic retinopathy, renal failure, heart attacks, and strokes. Type 1 diabetes mellitus can be complicated by ketonemia – an increase in the level of ketone bodies in the blood, in particular acetone, due to the increased process of tissue breakdown (catabolism).

Diabetes mellitus: treatment at the present stage

The main approach in the treatment of type 1 diabetes now is insulin administration. Thanks to injections, it is possible to compensate the deficiency of natural insulin and to avoid the destructive effects of high blood sugar on all organs and systems of the body. Insulin is administered even at a very young age as soon as the disease is diagnosed. In addition to that, another treatment is also carried out in type 1 diabetes mellitus, aimed at pancreas support, reduction of the toxic load, and also treatment of the concomitant pathologies. Since the quality of life of a patient, receiving insulin replacement therapy leaves much to be desired, the scientists are looking for remedies to free the patient from daily insulin injections, without which the patient will just die. Among the most advanced methods is the use of stem cell preparations. There is hope that in the future, stem cell treatment will make it possible to cure diabetes mellitus, because today it is already possible with the help of biological products, based on them to achieve the influence on the pancreas, which normally should produce insulin. Nowadays cord blood stem cells can significantly improve the condition of patients with diabetes. Thanks to cell therapy, it’s possible

  • to reduce the dose and frequency of insulin preparation administration
  • to normalize the metabolic processes, including those that affect blood glucose level
  • to improve the condition of all organs suffering from high sugar levels
  • to improve the condition of small vessels and peripheral nerves, the damage of which usually occurs in diabetes mellitus of any type.

Treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus includes the use of sugar-lowering drugs, drugs to normalize blood lipids, diet, and physical activity. In some cases decrease of the body weight, regular physical activity, giving up food that increase blood sugar help keep control over the disease without the use of medications. The use of stem cell preparations also has great prospects for the type 2 diabetes treatment. 

The stem cell treatment method allows

  • to restore insulin sensitivity of cells (reduce insulin resistance)
  • to normalize blood glucose
  • to normalize lipid metabolism
  • to protect vascular cells
  • to improve microcirculation in all organs
  • to reduce the likelihood of diabetes complications.

As a result of the introduction of stem cells, glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) decreases, it becomes easier for the patient to control blood sugar with a diet or with lower doses of sugar-lowering drugs.

Nowadays medicine, including cell medicine, does not offer a complete cure for type 1 or type 2 diabetes. However, research continues, because diabetes and its complications reduce the quality and life expectancy of millions of people around the world. Having saved the umbilical cord blood at child birth today, tomorrow you will give it a chance to treat serious illnesses, including diabetes. There is already evidence that the use of cord blood products in children with type 1 diabetes mellitus can reduce the dose of insulin administered. The Institute of Cell Therapy has positive experience in the treatment of diabetes mellitus and its complications in  the framework of the clinical trials, including critical ischemia and trophic ulcers of the lower extremities, as well as diabetic foot. Research is going on in the world, with which the scientists were able to convert stem cells into pancreatic beta cells, producing insulin. It is possible that in a few years, the scientists will be able to say that diabetes can be cured by stem cells.