Experimental treatment may have cured Type 1 diabetes for the first time

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In a Vertex Pharmaceuticals clinical trial, an experimental treatment may have cured Type 1 diabetes for the first time in a 64-year-old patient, The New York Times reported Nov. 27.

The treatment involves an infusion of cells, grown from stem cells that produce islet cells — insulin-producing cells found throughout the pancreas. Ohio resident Brian Shelton became the first person to receive the treatment on June 29 as part of the trial. 

His body now automatically regulates its insulin and blood sugar levels, the Times reports. 

"It's a whole new life," Mr. Shelton told the news outlet. "It's like a miracle." 

The result has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal and the trial will continue for five years. It includes 17 participants with severe Type 1 diabetes and the treatment is not intended for Type 2 diabetes. Several diabetes experts expressed cautious optimism, telling the Times further research is needed to determine whether there are any adverse effects and whether the treatment would need to be repeated.

Still, "It is a remarkable result," said Peter Butler, MD, a diabetes expert at UCLA. "To be able to reverse diabetes by giving them back the cells they are missing is comparable to the miracle when insulin was first available 100 years ago," Dr. Butler told the Times

Doug Melton, PhD, a biologist at Cambridge, Mass.-based Harvard University, led the treatment's development over two decades.

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