Man, there's been an amazing amount of buzz and excitement over new stem cell research out of Brazil that may "rein in Type 1 diabetes." By injecting 15 patients with their own stem cells, researchers were able to get these people off insulin entirely without any major negative side effects -- so far.

Luminaries are quoted as saying that this exciting new treatment "is a big deal," but the follow-upStem_cell_treatment section in the LA Times notes: "Long-term effects of treatment unknown."

The deal is this:

Using an approach mirroring bone marrow transplants used to treat patients with certain cancers and blood diseases, researchers in Brazil treated 15 patients newly diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes -- "before their immune systems had the chance to eradicate all of their insulin-producing cells. The researchers hoped to preserve enough beta cells to make insulin injections unnecessary."

Bone marrow contains hematopoietic stem cells, which are able to build all of the elements of the immune system. The idea was to "wipe out the faulty immune system and replace it with a new one that functions properly."

Young patients, ages 14 to 31, "were treated with drugs and hormones that prompted the body to produce hematopoietic stem cells and send them from the bone marrow into the bloodstream, from which a machine then extracted them.  About two weeks later, the patients checked into the hospital and received chemotherapy and other drugs to kill off their immune systems over a period of five days."

"After a day of rest, they were infused with their own hematopoietic stem cells, which took about eight to 12 days to establish new immune systems. While the patients were without functioning immune systems, they were given antibiotics to protect them from possible infections."

So far, side effects included only nausea, vomiting and hair loss. Yuck!  But since these Type 1 patients were able to forgo insulin for months or even years, researchers are pretty sure they're onto something here!

"It's too early to call it a cure," they say.  It's "highly experimental and potentially dangerous" (putting patients at risk for life-threatening infection, as the immune system is tampered with). 

But "it's the first time in the history of Type 1 diabetes where people have gone with no treatment whatsoever ... no medications at all, with normal blood sugars."

OMG. Hoping beyond hope?  Watch the MSNBC video here.

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