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A Stem-Cell Cure For Type 1 Diabetes? For One Man, It Seems To Have Worked

Long-time Slashdot reader fahrbot-bot shares the New York Times’ report on a 64-year-old man who participated in a clinical trial by Vertex Pharmaceuticals involving an infusion of insulin-producing pancreas cells grown from stem cells.

Now his body automatically controls its insulin and blood sugar levels.”

Mr. Shelton, now 64, may be the first person cured of the disease with a new treatment that has experts daring to hope that help may be coming for many of the 1.5 million Americans suffering from Type 1 diabetes. “It’s a whole new life,” Mr. Shelton said. “It’s like a miracle.” Diabetes experts were astonished but urged caution.

The study is continuing and will take five years, involving 17 people with severe cases of Type 1 diabetes. It is not intended as a treatment for the more common Type 2 diabetes.

“We’ve been looking for something like this to happen literally for decades,” said Dr. Irl Hirsch, a diabetes expert at the University of Washington who was not involved in the research. He wants to see the result, not yet published in a peer-reviewed journal, replicated in many more people. He also wants to know if there will be unanticipated adverse effects and if the cells will last for a lifetime or if the treatment would have to be repeated. But, he said, “bottom line, it is an amazing result….”

For Mr. Shelton the moment of truth came a few days after the procedure, when he left the hospital. He measured his blood sugar. It was perfect. He and Ms. Shelton had a meal. His blood sugar remained in the normal range.

Mr. Shelton wept when he saw the measurement.

“The only thing I can say is ‘thank you.'”
15 people in a lab spent over 20 years working on converting the stem cells, the article reports. The total cost: about $50 million.

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