Diabetes Fact Sheet
CIRM funds many projects seeking to better understand diabetes and to translate those discoveries into new therapies.
Diabetes comes in two forms: type 1 (also known as juvenile) and type 2 (also known as adult). As many as 3 million people in the U.S. have type 1 diabetes, which is the form primarily being targeted by stem cell research.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder where the body’s own immune system destroys the cells in the pancreas that make insulin. Insulin normally circulates in the bloodstream after a meal and allows cells of the body to take up sugar and use it for food. Without insulin, cells starve and the sugar builds up in the bloodstream where it can damage the kidneys, blood vessels and retina.
Any potential cure for type 1 diabetes requires replacing the lost insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. Currently, the only cells that can be used for such a transplant come from donated organs, which are in short supply. Such insulin-producing cell transplants are also risky because the cells can be rejected by the recipient’s body if they don’t receive immune suppressing drugs.
To solve the first problem, groups of CIRM-funded researchers have developed methods to make replacement insulin-producing cells derived from human embryonic stem cells, which can be grown in large amounts. Implanted into mice and rats these cells are able to regulate blood sugar.
To get around the problem of rejection, CIRM-funded teams have placed cells in a device that implants under the skin and shields the cells from the immune system. Other groups are studying how to regulate the immune system to make stem cell-derived transplants safer.
Disease Team Awards
The team has developed a way of maturing embryonic stem cells into an early form of the cells that produce insulin. They then insert those cells into a permeable device that can be implanted under the skin. Inside the device, the cells mature into insulin-producing cells. In diabetic animals, the cells are able to regulate blood sugar. The team plans to test the technique in other animals and, if it appears to be successful, begin clinical trials in humans.
Progress and Promise in Diabetes Research
CIRM Grants Targeting Diabetes
CIRM Diabetes Videos
News and Information
- CIRMResearch blog entries on type 1 diabetes research progress
- CIRM Loan to Boost Diabetes Research (San Diego Business Journal)
- Diabetes Health Guide (New York Times)
- San Diego company studies stem cell implant as a Type 1 diabetes treatment (Los Angeles Times)
- NIH: Diabetes Information
- CDC: Diabetes Resources
- Find a clinical trial near you: NIH Clinical Trials database
- Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
- American Diabetes Association
- Stem Cell Netword diabetes page
- Family Caregiver Alliance
- National Family Caregivers Association