Research Matters: Stem Cells and Dr. Faustman

Speaking of children with diabetes, I’d like to say a bit more about research, and why stem cells matter. No intention of wading into the morally and politically charged quagmire here (When does life begin? How must we treat embryos?); just want to offer a little “primer” for those less familiar with the groundbreaking research going on now.

First, I found an excellent site that tells you everything you need to know about stem cell research at, and in particular, its relationship to diabetes.

Simply stated, stem cells are “early stage” cells within an organism that are as-yet undifferentiated, i.e. they have not yet developed the specific functions of eye cells for seeing or heart cells for pumping blood, for example. This is the magic of stem cells: they have the potential to develop into most of the 220 different cell types in the human body. Imagine the healing possibilities! Researchers are making headway in finding ways to 1) produce more stem cells, and 2) cause these cells to develop into desired types of cells that can be used to treat various diseases and disorders.

Their incredible potential for diabetes is, of course, coaxing these cells to grow and develop into insulin-producing cells, thus eliminating the disease (!).

There are two kinds of stem cells –- adult and embryonic (derived from embryos – herein lies the controversy!). As it happens, the embryonic cells are more “robust” and have more potential to form into the various cell types desired. The Iacocca Foundation offers a great one-pager on “Understanding Stem Cells.”

Earlier this month, the ADA held its first ever Islet Cell Summit in Chicago, bringing together seven of the world’s leading researchers who’ve received ADA Islet Cell Replacement Research Awards for work on methods to restore the body’s ability to produce insulin.

Their methods fall into three categories:

* Genetic engineering of non-pancreatic cells into glucose-sensitive, insulin-producing cells;

* Transforming stem cells or pancreatic ductal cells into insulin producing cells; and

* Transplanting non-human islet cells to restore normal glucose levels in people with diabetes, with particular focus on preventing rejection of these islets by the immune system.

All of which has very exciting potential to move us toward a cure. (Diabetes In Control promises to cover results of the summit soon).

And then there is Dr. Denise Faustman. I may be the last diabetic on the Net to write about her :) . See “Cure Mom” Shannon’s call to action, for one.

Dr. Faustman, championed by the Iococca Foundation, is working to eliminate the T cells that incorrectly destroy the islet cells. Specifically, she found that injecting a dosage of a bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine actually CURED Type 1 diabetes in mice. This is undoubtedly the MOST EXCITING research to date!! No one else has come close to demonstrating a cure yet.

As Shannon notes, Dr. Faustman’s method requires no stem cells, and no drugs other than BCG, which has been used for decades and has no known side effects. I would also ask everyone reading this to click here to support Dr. Faustman’s promising research!

Lee Iococca is funding her work, and trying to help her expedite the FDA approvals process for her clinical trials with humans. Click here for an excellent Q&A at Iococca’s site explaining details.

Iococca lost his wife to Type 1 diabetes a number of years ago, and has made it his life’s goal to help find a cure for the disease. So while he is funding Dr. Faustman, he is also not shunning the possibility that stem cell research may bring that cure. See the Miracle Cells” article posted at his site.

My point being: it is worthwhile to support any and all legitimate and promising paths to potential cures. Supporters can donate to the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) by clicking here.

Suffice it to say that availability of these cells is critical to various “regenerative” research efforts.


17 Responses

  1. Shannon Lewis
    Shannon Lewis April 17, 2005 at 7:09 am | | Reply

    I totally agree with everything you’ve said. Including that no research leading to the cure for diabetes should be ignored. Just imagine how much money would be available for other diseases waiting to be cured if we could get rid of diabetes and other autoimmune diseases once and for all.

  2. Jeff Rozar
    Jeff Rozar April 21, 2005 at 1:39 pm | | Reply

    Faustman is shunned by the ADA and other strongarm groups in Washington because companies will lose billions of $$ if there ever is a cure!

    Capitalism is wonderful, but when it comes to curing a disease with the side effect of erasing a business and the stockholders losing millions, it’s not a good system. It’s all about a company’s profits – Lily and all the supporting drug companies make billions of dollars with diabetics (type 1 and type 2). Imagine a cure that would cut out their huge profit streams? Lily wouldn’t stand for it and would do (does) everything in its power to stop a cure, with the ADA backing it up!

    What about the support system (i.e. doctors, nurses, conferences, endocrinology field of study) that is in place and all *its* money that it generates? Does anyone really think that will just all of a sudden go away?

    This isn’t the early 20th century (not sure of the date) when polio was cured. Back then, there were no drugs to treat it, so a cure was welcomed by everyone and businesses. This is now, though…a time when more moeny can be made on drugs that treat diseases versus any real cure?

    A cure? Unfortunately, it won’t happen – not when there’s money to be made off of those with the disease! Those who think a cure will someday arrive live in a different world.

  3. Amy Tenderich
    Amy Tenderich April 21, 2005 at 3:28 pm | | Reply

    Thanks for the feedback.

    I see your point, but I’m not so sure I subcribe to the conspiracy theory. This will be the topic of a future post, to be sure.

    - Amy

  4. Carrie
    Carrie May 2, 2005 at 11:40 pm | | Reply

    Hey Amy :-)
    I admire your ability to respond to Jeff Rozor’s comment with grace but have to say, I find his comment offensive on your blog. And right off the bat, I would suggest you ignore his rantings. Many have already researched his argument and it will only detract from what you’re doing with your blog. Not worth your time, but that’s just my two cents.

    Did he not read your About page? I know I did because I thought – why is this woman so interested in Diabetes AND stem cells? He should have done you the honour of taking the time to inform himself before making such an insensitive comment.

    For me, I wandered in from Grand Rounds somewhere and it’s my first time here. I’ll bookmark you :-) My older sister endured Type 1 diabetes for 36 years before she passed. So I’m very interested in stem cell research and diabetes treatment developments too.

    Kudos to you for writing this blog and doing it so well. Great work!

  5. Sue
    Sue May 4, 2005 at 6:41 am | | Reply

    Hi, Can Carrie or someone explain the last post here where she writes:

    “Did he not read your About page? I know I did because I thought – why is this woman so interested in Diabetes AND stem cells? He should have done you the honour of taking the time to inform himself before making such an insensitive comment.”

    Who is “this woman” referring to? and what is written in the “About page”?

    I have been following Dr. Faustman’s research since 2002…believe me, this has done nothing but progress in the right direction.
    People have to start looking at the published research data to support the actual possiblities of a cure in the near future. It is the fact that Dr. Faustman is the first and only scientist to have permanently reversed and cured type I diabetes in the NOD mouse model with ENDSTAGE disease. This particular mouse has autoimmune causing diabetes like the human with type I diabetes. They have very similar immune systems. Larger animals like primates, dogs, cats are not known to have autoimmune causing diabetes like the human. These animals, when used for research, are usually chemically induced to have diabetes ( a BIG DIFFERENCE) or those with spontaneous origin are more like type II with insulin resistance ( a BIG DIFFERENCE).
    There the research lies….the FIRST shot of possiblity curing this disease for children,teenagers,adults who are living with it. Not just a prevention, not just for early diagnosed and not just a treatment for those who have complications or severe hypoglycemia waiting in line for a tranpslant with the dependency of toxic immune suppression. THIS PLANNED HUMAN CLINCICAL PROJECT WOULD BE A POSSILBLE CURE FOR EVERYONE. And now the best part…FDA approved, an estimated cost of $11 million ( none of which is coming from the $1 billion budget of the NIH for diabetes research , or JDRF or ADA…) and a time frame of 3 years to find out. With all the 100′s of millions going into stem cell research, islet tranpslants, pancreas transplants…with no foreseeable end…and most importantly we may not even need any of it and could find this out in a few years. This project needs the help of the people.

  6. Tales of a MD PhD student
    Tales of a MD PhD student May 4, 2005 at 6:47 am | | Reply

    Grand Rounds 32: A Day in the Life

    3:00 PM
    The Patient Perspective:
    In Pain Scales and Daily Living, Peggikaye at Pearls and Dreams explains to her health care providers that what they see is not necessarily what they get. It’s an important point that we are glad to hearAcid Test d…

  7. Roger
    Roger May 28, 2005 at 11:58 am | | Reply

    First a quick comment of clarification, the website I included is currently in redesign so it may not be available if you check, but your welcome (even encouraged to try).

    Anyway, I came to this site actually as I was doing web research about any articles on drug companies trying to suppress (lobby) against “things” which would lead to a cure of diabetes because it IS a billion dollar a year business to care for people with diabetes. In fact the last figure I heard which was at least 5-7 years ago was about $92 BILLION dollars a year in cost of treating and caring for diabetes.

    What I realized from reading your site is that like in any human situation there is the epic battle between two opposing forces to come out on top. I DO believe that there are MANY people working to find a cure because they have a loved one who is, or are themselves, dealing with the disease and are heartfelt on finding a cure. And it’s great to read of the money and progress going toward that end. However just finding a cure and getting to the people will be no easier than convincing the “BIG 3″ automakers to stop using gasoline combustion engines.

    And even though I am happy for $11 million to be awarded to help in finding a cure, that has to viewed in comparison to another industry getting $92 billion to treat the problem. Hummm… wonder who has more leverage?

    Forgive my (what may sound like sarcasm) to some but it’s based on the fact that I have been a Type 1 diabetic for 41 years and all my life I have heard, “A cure is right around the corner!” I am pretty sure I will never see one. And I am greatful for the strides made in care like insulin pumps (albeit they are expensive to maintain – and don’t even get me started on the cost of testing supplies). But I digress and just want to say that your article does give me hope still (you have to hold on to that hope) and realize that in spite of the “money hungry” people who don’t want to see a cure, there will always be those rebels out there battling not just the disease but the current empire protecting it from a cure! Good luck and God bless.

  8. Bill Braithwaite
    Bill Braithwaite June 4, 2005 at 7:50 pm | | Reply

    well said……..

  9. Jeremy Levens
    Jeremy Levens November 6, 2005 at 6:33 pm | | Reply

    Congratulations and goodluck to your research. I must say that I am expecting a breakthrough in finding diabetes cure. I do agree that some things has to be done first before achieving such feat. I am really hoping that your research gets results faster than expected.

  10. natalie
    natalie May 18, 2006 at 10:01 pm | | Reply

    Well i hope that they do find the cure for diabetes. My brother is only 14 and was diagnosted with diabetes a year ago. Its been hard, because he wants to feel like he did i the past. Now he very thin to what he was back then. But i really hope that your research pays off to all in your hands

  11. Nick
    Nick May 23, 2006 at 6:44 pm | | Reply

    “Faustman is shunned by the ADA and other strongarm groups in Washington because companies will lose billions of $$ if there ever is a cure!”

    Exactly! Spread propaganda!
    The Iacocca foundation clearly more skilled than the JDRF (501(c)(3)).

    Plus, I’m sure this research is totally valid. To quote Science, “Three separate attempts have failed to replicate promising results that electrified the diabetes community 2 years ago. The outcome severely weakens the theory that the spleen cradles stem cells with curative powers against mouse diabetes.”

    Oh, and don’t forget that we already knew that NOD mice were cured of diabetes when given Freund’s adjuvant: “This finding is consistent with earlier mouse work and is increasingly suspected to apply to humans with newly diagnosed diabetes. But because the three groups could not detect spleen-derived beta cells, and because treatment with CFA and islets alone yielded the same results as when spleen cells were added to the mix, the groups attribute these cures to CFA and temporary islets.”

    And finally, remember that Freund’s is totally not toxic to humans, plus the new proposal for BCG is sure to work, it’s never been tried! “using CFA to cure mice is probably not relevant to humans. CFA’s effects on mice have been studied for years, and a related but less toxic substance, the tuberculosis vaccine BCG, has failed to counter human diabetes”

    I’m glad the New York Times and other agencies reported so accurately on a “success” even though Science and Nature refer to it as a total failure, with little scientific value:

  12. Becky
    Becky July 6, 2006 at 1:30 pm | | Reply

    It seems to me that there is a some professional competition going on behind the scenes of this whole saga. Obviously there are differing analyses of the data, hence the very different articles. There is a recent biography of Jonas Salk that is a good example of how severe professional competition can be among researchers. No matter who is right or wrong, in my opinion (and many others who are willing to raise the money since the other non-profits aren’t helping) I want every stone unturned. I’m willing to follow this theory through until it’s either proven or debunked. What is the harm in trying? People (including me)get pretty upset about a lack of funding for stem cell research. This is the same situation in my opinion. We just won’t know until we try. Let’s try and if it doesn’t work, we move on to the next theory!

  13. Shaun
    Shaun April 6, 2007 at 6:26 am | | Reply

    I only recently found out about Dr. Faustmans’ research, and only today found this site. But I would just like to point something out. While the diabetes care industry is worth $92 billion, think about the medical funds, you as a diabetic might pay something like $60 a month for a medical, and at the end of the month, you claim back about $100 to $200 worth of diabetic care. So the medical fund is loosing out on your case. Then think about countries like here in Australia, where Medicare subsidizes a great portion of the cost of medicine. Usually it would cost me around $60 for a box of 5 NovoRapid FlexPens, with Medicare, I get 5 boxes of 5 pens each for only $20. My test strips for my glucose meter also cost around $60, but with Medicare, I only pay $12 for a box of 100 testers.

    Now, think of it this way, the industry is worth $92 billion, lets say for arguments sake, governments and medical funds have to pay around $80 billion out of their own pockets to subsidize the cost of the care, don’t you think those people, especially governments will want a cure in order to move that funding to other pressing matters? I am sure a health fund would rather have you paying your $60 per month and not claim anything back, than have to loose money rebating your medical costs.

    I think the amount of governments and large medical funds ‘outsize’ the corporations and pharmaceutical companies and would rather have the cure.

  14. Joe Dennis
    Joe Dennis July 22, 2008 at 11:12 am | | Reply

    I’m greatful to find this site.

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    Kamagra Discount March 23, 2009 at 12:29 am | | Reply

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  16. affiliate
    affiliate February 25, 2010 at 1:40 am | | Reply

    they have the potential to develop into most of the 220 different cell types in the human body.

  17. Hdiabetes
    Hdiabetes December 17, 2010 at 6:29 pm | | Reply

    To all Dr faustman supporters , you could help free speed up the funding of Dr. Faustman’s most promising research:

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    How: You can join the lobby group newsletter totally free at
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