In several clinical and animal studies, researchers are utilizing mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) to treat Type II Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM). Type 2 Diabetes affects approximately 415 million people worldwide, with diabetes mellitus (DM) further exacerbating diabetes’ adverse health effects. Symptoms of DM are caused by both a lack of insulin, as-well-as an intolerance to the scarce amount of insulin that is produced by the pancreatic islet cells. DM is typically a precursor to ischemic heart disease, stroke, blindness and chronic kidney disease with no effective treatments currently available to prevent these complications. With previous treatments using donated organs and insulin producing cells proving unsuccessful, MSCs are emerging as an extremely effective tool to restore normal function to the pancreatic islet cells and alleviate the other symptoms of DM. MSCs (the same type of stem cells that are found in teeth) not only normalize natural insulin levels, but also help ameliorate insulin resistance in the body’s tissues by creating a favorable microenvironment.
Researchers at the University of Chicago have developed a skin graft utilizing engineered stem cells that can trigger the release of insulin and successfully regulate blood sugar levels, as well as prevent weight gain when consuming a high-fat diet. This revolutionary treatment could eliminate the pain and discomfort from current methods of monitoring and regulating blood sugar through injections. The stem cells in the graft were engineered, with the use of CRISPR, to release a hormone that mimics glucagon (called GLP-1) and trigger the pancreas to release insulin. GLP-1 is also shown to combat obesity due to its appetite suppressing properties. The engineered stem cells formed into a layer of skin tissue and were applied to the subjects. In animal models, 80% of the diabetic mice receiving the engineered skin graft exhibited the release of insulin following food consumption resulting in lower blood glucose levels and reduced body weight.