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Stem cell study is “one step closer to a Type 1 diabetes cure”


Diabetes UK has welcomed the results of a new stem cell study as a breakthrough that takes us one step closer to finding a cure for Type 1 diabetes.

Insulin-producing cells

A team of scientists at the New York Stem Cell Foundation has created insulin producing cells using a new process, which could one day become an important part of a potential cure.  

The researchers used skin cells from a woman with Type 1 diabetes to make stem cells, which have the potential to turn into any type of cell in our bodies. They then showed that they could turn these stem cell into cells that can produce insulin (also known as beta-cells).

Very early stages

There are two critical components to a true cure for Type 1 diabetes. One is to produce insulin producing beta cells that can be given to people with Type 1 diabetes so that they can start producing insulin. The other is to control the auto-immune response that kills insulin producing cells in people with Type 1. While this research is in very early stages, it is exciting because it proves that in principle the first component of a cure is possible.

"A real step forward"

Dr Alasdair Rankin, Director of Research for Diabetes UK, said: “This research is a real step forward in the search for a cure for Type 1 diabetes. Replacing the beta cells that are destroyed in Type 1 diabetes could one day allow people living with Type 1 diabetes to stop taking insulin which would transform their lives. Scientists around the world are searching for the best ways to produce beta cells that can be used to treat diabetes. We don’t yet know if this technique will prove to be the most suitable, but it opens the door to really exciting possibilities for the future. 

“Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong condition that people have to manage 365 days a year, so many people dream of the day a cure is found. Important research like this is crucial to bringing us one step further to a cure. We will be watching the results with interest.”

Research in this area is a real strength of UK biomedicine. Diabetes UK is currently support a variety of research into what makes beta cells grow and thrive, as well as research into what goes wrong with the immune system in Type 1 diabetes and how to make it better. 

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