For those with type 1 diabetes, regularly injecting themselves with insulin is part and parcel of their daily lives. This form of treatment hasn’t advanced much for nearly a century, so it will come as good news that researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are on the verge of a breakthrough. As a study in Nature Medicine reveals, insulin-producing beta cells made from human stem cells have been shown to effectively “switch off” diabetes in mice for up to six months.
Within a healthy person’s pancreas, clusters of beta cells produce insulin in order to counteract rising blood sugar levels. Someone suffering from type 1 diabetes is unable to control their blood sugar levels, as their own immune system attacks and destroys these insulin-producing cells. Type 1 diabetes, which makes up roughly 10 percent of all diabetes cases, is therefore a type of autoimmune disease, and is currently incurable.