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Question:

From Chicago, Illinois, USA:

The death of President Reagan seems to have rekindled the controversial stem cell research policy. As most of us know, the current government has set substantial restrictions (funding) on this research. When I read about proponents of stem cell research, they always seem to imply a cure for diabetes could be found with proper funding (research). Is this optimism shared by those involved with this foundation?

Answer:

Much of the hope surrounding embryonic stem cell research, as it relates to type 1 diabetes, centers around the potential to create a large supply of insulin-producing beta cells within pancreatic islets which could then be used in islet transplants using the techniques of the Edmonton Protocol. The recipient of the transplanted, stem-cell-derived islets would still require life-long immunosuppression to prevent rejection of the tissue. The transplant would not in and of itself reverse the inherent autoimmunity which causes type 1 diabetes in the first place (i.e., eliminate type 1 diabetes in the body) but, rather, would enable many more people to receive islet transplants.

Another potential for embryonic stem cell research is to develop a beta cell that is not susceptible to the autoimmune attack of type 1 diabetes, or to develop immune cells from the same embryonic cells that could be used to re-educate the immune system and restore self-tolerance. This would be a true cure for type 1 diabetes because both insulin secretion would be restored and the underlying autoimmunity eliminated.

Federal funding is restricted to those embryonic cell lines that existed prior to August 9, 2001, the day on which the complete ban on embryonic stem cell research in the United States was lifted. To the best of my knowledge, there is no restriction on the type of research that can be conducted on those existing cell lines. The controversy to which you refer is not on embryonic stem cell research per se, but rather on the prohibition of the use of federal funds to create new embryonic stem cells lines or to conduct research on any cell lines that were created after August 9, 2001.

All stem cell research must at this point in time be considered basic science, and like all basic science, an enormous amount of work must be done before we will know whether in fact a cure can be found for diabetes or any other illness.

For more information about embryonic stem cell research, visit the Stem Cell Information web site of the National Institutes of Health.

JSH

DTQ-20040827100416
Original posting 28 Aug 2004
Posted to Research: Cure

  
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Last Updated: Tuesday April 06, 2010 15:09:58
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