New Developments From Prevention To Cure Highlight Hopes for Patients With Diabetes

It seems like every week there is a new article or story suggesting ways to improve diabetes. This week, there are a few highlights worth sharing.

Plant-Based Diets and Diabetes Prevention

Improving chronic disease is tough, and by focusing on making small changes on a daily basis, patients can create habits that will lead to better outcomes. For example, simple dietary changes could lead to significant improvements for patients.  

A new study found that eating a mainly plant-based diet – lots of vegetables, whole grains, and fruit – could significantly lower the risk of developing type-2 diabetes, according to HealthDay News.

“This study highlights that even moderate dietary changes in the direction of a healthful plant-based diet can play a significant role in the prevention of type 2 diabetes,” said study lead author Ambika Satija, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. “These findings provide further evidence to support current dietary recommendations for chronic disease prevention.”

The study, which included information from more than 200,000 Americans and took place over 20 years, found that people who ate less animal-based foods and more plant-based products had a 20 percent less chance of developing type-2 diabetes.

While this study focused on the prevention of type-2 diabetes, and limiting the chance of developing the disease, other work is being done to help those who already suffer from the disease.

Stem Cells and Curing Diabetes

Curing diabetes sounds far-fetched to those who operate within the medical industry, but researchers at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI), three Harvard affiliates, and a biopharmaceutical company have collaborated to help find a cure for the disease.

The effort, known as the Boston Autologous Islet Replacement Program, is hoping to use recent advances in stem cell biology to target certain cells within the body to alter the insulin production of affected individuals, according to the Harvard Gazette.

Basically, one of the directors of the HSCI has developed a process to generate virtually unlimited numbers of beta cells. These cells are the insulin producers in the pancreas, and the new cells that are generated in the lab could be used to help patients who have deficiencies.

“One of our highest priorities at Joslin Diabetes Center has been to bring stem cell-based beta cell replacement therapy to people living with diabetes,” said Peter Amenta, president of Joslin Diabetes Center, one of the collaborating partners. “We are excited to be working with other Boston leaders in academia and industry to make this a reality.”

Technology and Cell Replacement

Such an advanced approach to diabetes treatment and research is new for medical professionals, as it is only recently that such technology has emerged, according to STAT News.

“We’ve reached a point with the technology where we can legitimately start thinking about cell replacement,” said Dr. Richard Lee, a Brigham cardiologist and researcher at the stem cell institute.

Though this is great news for people who are suffering from diabetes, there remains much work to do before any concrete solution is available. In the meantime, making lifestyle changes like altering diet and exercising more is a much simpler and realistic approach. Improving monitoring of the disease is also a good way to keep diabetes in check, and patients should work directly and often with their healthcare providers to do so.