Mom's Stem Cells Might Treat Child's Diabetes

Monday, January 22, 2007; 12:00 AM

MONDAY, Jan. 22 (HealthDay News) -- Cells passed from a mother to child during pregnancy can grow into functioning pancreatic cells that produce insulin in the child, U.S. scientists report.

The scientists also found that children and young adults with type 1 diabetes had higher levels of maternal DNA in their blood than siblings or unrelated people without diabetes. This suggests an attempt to repair damaged tissue.

The findings suggest that it may be possible to harvest a mother's stem cells in order to treat her diabetic child.

Type 1 diabetes is an inherited form of the disease where individuals do not have enough functioning pancreatic islet cells needed to produce insulin.

The findings, published in the Jan. 22 issue of the journalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may help in the development of new treatments for type 1 diabetes, say researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

They said they found no evidence that the mother's cells were attacking the child's insulin cells or that the maternal cells were being attacked by the child's immune system.

"We think the maternal cells may be helping to regenerate damaged tissue in the (child's) pancreas," Dr. J. Lee Nelson, a member of the clinical research division at Hutchinson, said in a prepared statement.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about type 1 diabetes.

SOURCE: Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, news release, Jan. 22, 2007

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