Diabetes Mellitus Type II
Individuals with type II diabetes have difficulty using insulin properly. In some cases, insulin resistance prevents the body from utilizing glucose (sugar) properly, while in other cases, the body fails to produce enough insulin to maintain normal blood glucose. Both insulin resistance and failure to produce insulin in adequate amounts result in hyperglycemia (elevated blood glucose) causing symptoms such as increased thirst and urination, increased hunger, fatigue, blurry vision, slow wound healing, frequent infections, or areas of darkened skin. Prolonged elevated blood glucose can lead to serious complications such as atherosclerosis, retinopathy
(damage to the blood vessels in the eyes), nephropathy (kidney damage), and neuropathy (damage to nerves in your hands and feet). Treatment for diabetes mellitus type II includes dietary modification, exercise, weight reduction, and various pharmacologic therapies. Stem cell therapy holds promise in addressing regeneration of insulin-producing cells as well as repairing tissue damage that may have occurred.
Diabetes Mellitus Type I
Type I diabetes, also known as insulin dependent diabetes, is an autoimmune condition where the body attacks the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas resulting in little to no insulin production. Without insulin, glucose cannot enter the cells to make energy and, instead, remains in elevated concentrations in the blood, resulting in increased thirst, increased urination, increased hunger, weight loss, and/or blurry vision. Insulin treatment is imperative for individuals with diabetes mellitus type I. While treatment with insulin maintains blood glucose levels, it does not address the autoimmune cause of hyperglycemia. Stem cells may offer the possibility of regenerating insulin-producing pancreatic cells as well as recruiting and increasing the body’s immunosuppressive cells.
Scleroderma is a systemic autoimmune disease that primarily affects skin and joints, but can affect the heart, lungs, and digestive tract. The destruction of Scleroderma is due to the damage of endothelial and smooth muscle cells of small arteries, which are replaced with fibrous material and an inflow of inflammatory cells. Standard treatment of Scleroderma involves immunosuppressive drugs. Mesenchymal stem cells are under investigation for their potential regenerative, immune-regulatory, and anti-inflammatory properties. As recently stated in Best Practices & Research Clinical Rheumatology in a review of Scleroderma, “Stem cell transplantation seems to be promising in restarting the immune system to diminish fibrosis and restore microvasculature.”
autoimmune neuropathy & cidp
CIDP also known as chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy is an auto-immune disease of the nervous system characterized by progressive weakness and impaired sensory function in the legs and arms. CIDP is closely related to Guillan-Barre Disease. Treatment for CIDP includes steroids and immunosuppressant drugs. Plasmapheresis (plasma exchange) and intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) therapy also commonly
used. Aggressive treatment is used to prevent loss of axons. Some cases progress and are resistant to medical therapy, making it difficult to manage symptoms. There is hope that mesenchymal stem cells will mitigate some of the degenerative effects of CIDP neuropathy. Research is ongoing to evaluate the effects of stem cells on auto-immune conditions.
Myasthenia gravis is an autoimmune neuromuscular disease leading to fluctuating muscle weakness and fatigability. It is an autoimmune disorder, in which weakness is caused by circulating antibodies that inhibit the excitatory effects of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine on neuromuscular junctions. Muscular fatigue is often seen and MG is associated with ocular problems, and speech, swallowing, and breathing can be affected. Myasthenia Gravis is treated medically with acetylcholinesterase inhibitors or immunosuppressants, and in selected cases, thymectomy. MG is associated with other auto-immune conditions, including thyroid disease, lupus, and diabetes.
Animal model studies are ongoing and, according to the Scandinavian Journal of Immunology in 2010, a study demonstrated that hMSC (mesenchymal stem cells) treatment was therapeutically useful in autoimmune myasthenia gravis mice, and the underlying mechanism may relate with their immunomodulatory potential.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune condition that causes the immune system to attack the joints, causing inflammation, pain, swelling, bone loss, and permanent deformity. The hands and wrists are most often affected, but other joints and organ systems can be impacted as well. Stem cells may be able to repair damaged cartilage and joint tissue, as well as provide relief for inflammation and regulate the immune system respsonse with the creation of new T regulatory cells. Clinical trials have even shown the possibility of stable remission after stem cell treatment.
Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease that occurs in half a million people in North America. It may affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract from mouth to anus, causing a wide variety of symptoms, including abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea (which may be bloody if inflammation is at its worst), vomiting (can be continuous), or weight loss. Skin rashes and arthritis can also occur. Crohn’s disease has a genetic component, but it is an auto-immune disease in which the person’s own immune system attacks the gastrointestinal tract possibly directed at microbial antigens. The terminal ileum is the part of the bowel most often affected in this disease. Treatment often includes immune-suppressant therapy with steroids. Antibiotics and anti-inflammatories are also used extensively. In Europe, stem cells are used commonly to treat Crohn’s. Research is ongoing to evaluate the effects of stem cells on auto-immune conditions.
Autoimmune hepatitis manifests when the liver is attacked by the body’s immune system, causing inflammation and eventually leading to cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and liver failure. It often occurs in conjunction with other autoimmune conditions and can be life-threatening if not detected early. Common symptoms include fatigue, itching, abdominal distention, and loss of appetite. Steroids are the standard treatment for autoimmune hepatitis. Mesenchymal stem cells demonstrate the ability to regulate the immune system by differentiating into T cells, or catalyzing T cell production. Stem cells may also reduce inflammation brought on by autoimmune hepatitis. Stem cells are deployed systemically rather than locally, and repeated procedures (all outpatient) may be required.
Relapsing Polychondritis is an auto-immune condition characterized by the body attacking its own cartilage. Polychondritis patients suffer from recurrent relapsing episodes of painful cartilage inflammation. Susceptible areas include ears, nasopharynx, heart valves, and blood vessels. As stated in Annals of Internal Medicine, “Relapsing Polychondritis…can be life-threatening and debilitating.” The disease is life threatening and debilitating. There is no one specific test for identifying Polychondritis and the course of the disease is often unpredictable. Treatment consists of anti-inflammatory medications and immune suppression with corticosteroids. Research is ongoing to evaluate the effects of stem cells on auto-immune conditions. According to the Journal of Rheumatology Supplements, “the opportunity to ablate (with autologous stem
cells) severe autoimmune disease with increased safety is particularly attractive for necrotizingvasculitides, polymyositis/dermatomyositis, primary Sjögren’s syndrome, systemic juvenile arthritis, and relapsing Polychondritis.”
Alopecia Areata is an autoimmune condition wherein the immune system attacks the hair follicles. Believed to be passed genetically, the condition manifests as small bald patches. The condition can affect the entire body (universalis) or just the head (totalis). The condition can worsen or improve spontaneously. Typical treatment courses involve topical immunosuppressants and steroids. Research to assess the effect of mesenchymal stem cell therapy on Alopecia Areata is ongoing.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus is a collection of autoimmune disorders resulting in fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, and rash. Anti-inflammatory, immune-suppressant, even cytotoxic drugs are typically prescribed. Stem cell therapy shows promise in alleviating lupus due to the anti-inflammatory and immune-regulatory properties of stem cells. The cells are deployed systemically, and several doses may be required.
An underactive thyroid, hypothyroidism, is a condition in which the thyroid gland fails to produce enough thyroid hormone. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease in which your immune system attacks its thyroid, resulting in inflammation and hypothyroidism. Since thyroid hormone is responsible for maintaining the body’s metabolic processes, hypothyroidism results in symptoms such as weight gain, fatigue, constipation, dry skin, depression, and hair loss. New research on mesenchymal stem cell therapy has shown promise in treating thyroid conditions such as hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, offering a possible alternative to thyroid medication.