Today, about four percent of Americans bank their children's cord blood just incase it might come in handy, and more are doing it every day. Now a small studyannounced at the 67th Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Associationhas found that infusions of umbilical cord blood may preserve insulinproduction.
Researchers at the University of Florida recruited seven children, ages two toseven years, who'd just been diagnosed and were still producing a little oftheir own insulin. They infused the kids with their own cord blood and thencompared them with thirteen control youngsters, similar but sans cord blood, whowere being intensively treated with insulin. Six months later, the children whoreceived the cord blood had A1c's of 7%, as opposed to 8.04 % in the controls,and they required less insulin per day: 0.45 units per kilogram versus 0.69units in the controls.
Importantly, the cord blood group saw little change intheir levels of C-peptide (a by-product of insulin production in the body),indicating that they may have retained the ability to make their own insulinlonger than expected.
How does the cord blood work? The researchers don't think that the stem cells inthe cord blood are differentiating into pancreatic beta cells. Instead, theypoint out that cord blood is a rich source of regulatory T-cells (T regs);throughout the six months after the cord blood infusion, there was a noticeableincrease in T regs in the children's blood.
The study authors propose that cordblood may provide a bolus of T regs that restrains the immune system and keepsit from attacking the pancreas. They are hoping that they might eventually beable to take the T regs out of cord blood and grow more of them, after whichthey could mix a "cocktail" of T-regs and other cell therapies which mightarrest or even prevent the development of type 1 diabetes.
Sources: ADA; University of Florida Health Science Center