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China has announced the world’s first complete cure of diabetes

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China has announced the world’s first complete cure of diabetes

Forumul Economic Regional Moldova 2024 – Vatra Dornei, 4–6 iulie

China has announced the world’s first complete cure of diabetes through innovative cell therapy, offering hope to the over 560 million people globally afflicted by this scourge, as reported by the South China Morning Post.

A 59-year-old man with type 2 diabetes, who required multiple insulin injections daily, underwent an innovative cell transplant. Over the following 33 months, the patient no longer required insulin or any other treatment.

This breakthrough offers hope to hundreds of millions of people suffering from diabetes. The fully healed patient had lived with type 2 diabetes for 25 years, facing serious risks of disease complications.

Although he had a kidney transplant in 2017, he lost much of his pancreatic insulin function, relying heavily on daily insulin injections. “He was at significant risk of serious diabetes complications,” said Yin Hao, a researcher at Shanghai Changzheng Hospital. The patient received the innovative cell transplant in July 2021.

Eleven weeks post-transplant, he no longer needed external insulin, and his oral medication dosage for blood sugar control was gradually reduced and completely stopped a year later.

“He has not needed insulin or any other medication for 33 months,” Yin added. “Subsequent examinations showed that the patient’s pancreatic insulin function was effectively restored.”

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The medical discovery, conducted by a team of doctors and researchers from institutions such as Shanghai Changzheng Hospital, the Center of Excellence in Molecular Cell Science of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Renji Hospital, all based in Shanghai, was published in the journal Cell Discovery on April 30.

“I believe this study represents a significant step forward in the field of cellular therapy for diabetes,” said Timothy Kieffer, a professor at the Department of Cellular and Physiological Sciences at the University of British Columbia in Canada.

Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects how our bodies convert food into energy. What we consume is broken down into glucose – simple sugar – and released into the bloodstream. Insulin produced by the pancreas is crucial for regulating blood sugar levels.

In diabetes, this system is disrupted: either the body doesn’t produce enough insulin, or it can’t effectively use the insulin it produces.

There are several types of diabetes, with type 2 being the most common, affecting nearly 90% of patients. It’s largely diet-related and develops over time.

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Diabetes is currently an incurable disease. Regardless of the type of diabetes, the inability to maintain normal blood glucose levels over time can lead to serious adverse reactions, including heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US, “there is still no cure for diabetes.”

Alongside weight loss, dietary changes, and medication administration, insulin is the main treatment for some, but this requires frequent injections and monitoring.

Scientists worldwide are researching islet cell transplantation as a promising alternative, primarily by creating islet-like cells from human stem cell cultures. Now, after over a decade of work, the Chinese scientist group has taken a step further.

The team also used and programmed the patient’s mononuclear cells from peripheral blood, Yin said, which were then transformed into “seed cells” and rebuilt the pancreatic islet tissue in an artificial environment.

While Kieffer’s team’s preclinical data support the use of stem cell-derived islets for type 2 diabetes treatment, Yin’s and his colleagues’ case is, to Kieffer’s knowledge, “the first evidence of success in humans.”

Yin said the discovery is another step forward in the relatively new field of regenerative medicine – where the body’s own regenerative capabilities are harnessed to treat diseases.

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“Our technology has matured and crossed boundaries in the field of regenerative medicine for diabetes treatment.”

China has a quarter of the world’s diabetes patients. Globally, China has the highest number of people with diabetes. According to the International Diabetes Federation, there are 140 million people with diabetes in China. Of these, around 40 million depend on lifelong insulin injections.

The diabetic population in China is disproportionately large, according to Huang Yanzhong, a global health expert at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In a paper last year, he emphasized that while China represented 17.7% of the world’s population, the country’s diabetic population accounted for an astonishing quarter of the global total, placing a huge burden on government healthcare spending.

If this cellular therapy approach ultimately works, Kieffer said, “it may free patients from the burden of chronic medication, improve health and quality of life, and reduce healthcare costs.”

But to get there, he added, studies on more patients based on the findings of this Chinese study are needed.


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