Is there a diabetes cure?
With all the research on diabetes and the breakthroughs in diabetes treatments, it's tempting to think someone has surely found a diabetes cure by now. But the reality is there is no cure for diabetes - neither type 1 diabetes nor type 2 diabetes. In fact, it's highly advisable to avoid any product that claims to be the new ‘cure’ for diabetes.
Is weight loss surgery a possible cure for diabetes?
After weight loss surgery, many people with type 2 diabetes - what was once called adult onset diabetes - see their blood sugars return to near normal. It's not unusual for weight loss surgery patients to no longer need diabetes medicines once they lose their unhealthy weight.
But the people whose diabetes goes into remission are the ones who lose the most weight. The more weight a person loses after surgery, the greater improvement in blood glucose control. But, if and when a person regains the weight - and many do - diabetes returns. With it comes the need for constant blood glucose testing, medications and adherence to a stricter diet, exercise regimen and lifestyle changes.
Weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight are very important for self- managing diabetes. Although a diabetes cure would be wonderful, for now it's important to stick with your regular blood glucose testing and daily diabetes medications. It's also important that you follow your recommended diabetes diet, exercise regularly, manage your stress, and see your doctor regularly for necessary checkups.
Are stem cells a possible cure for diabetes?
Stem cells are cells that can develop into other types of cells and scientists have had some success with embryonic stem cells in mice. In one study, scientists at an American company prepped human embryonic stem cells to develop into pancreatic cells. Pancreatic cells are the type of cells that die in type 1 diabetes. After they prepped the cells, they grafted them into the abdominal fat of mice. Thirty days after implantation, the cells had morphed into pancreatic cells. Two months later, the implanted cells were actually producing insulin, the hormone that's needed to control blood glucose.
Many researchers have hope that stem cells hold the cure for a number of chronic and life-threatening diseases. The process of prepping and implanting stem cells, though, is still not available for humans. So, having the ability to use stem cells to cure diabetes is still far from reality.
What about islet cell transplantation as a cure for diabetes?
Islet cell transplantation involves transferring insulin-producing beta cells from a donor's pancreas into the person with diabetes. Once transplanted, the donor cells begin to make and release insulin, actively regulating the level of glucose in the blood.
A successful islet cell transplant can significantly improve the quality of life for a person with diabetes. But researchers do not call islet cell transplantation a real diabetes cure.
The transplanted cells can automatically monitor blood glucose levels and regulate insulin levels. That may provide more flexibility with meal planning and help protect against serious long-term diabetes complications such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and nerve and eye damage. But the islet cells can also be rejected, which is the greatest challenge researchers face today. Transplant recipients must take very strong drugs for the rest of their lives to suppress the immune response and prevent rejection. These immunosuppressive drugs can have serious side effects in some people.