Outbreak of Treatments

Monica Daubon

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It may be a little relieving to you that this article is not named “Outbreak of Diseases” especially with the Ebola crisis going on. Although Ebola is making many people feared for their lives, many people’s lives have been improved with two new treatments that have subtly emerged behind the Ebola crisis.

The first treatment is extremely significant. According to jdrf.org, as many as three million Americans have type 1 diabetes and about 80 people per day get diagnosed with this disease in the United States. Furthermore, the number of Americans under 20 with type 1 diabetes rose by 23% between 2001 and 2009, and the chance a child under 14 will be diagnosed has increased by 3% worldwide. I might seem like I’m speaking gibberish with these statistics, but for Dr. Paul Laikind, they were a challenge. So, Dr. Laikind and his team at ViaCyte were able to receive proper funding from the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine to launch the first patient into receiving cellular therapy for diabetes using stem cells on October 28, 2014. The patient had a thin, plastic pouch containing embryonic stem cell-derived pancreatic cells implanted. The pouch is able to detect blood sugar levels, just as a healthy pancreas would, and is able to secrete hormones and insulin to keep the blood sugar levels stable. This new treatment is the first unprecedented treatment trial using stem cells in the human body. If this treatment proves successful, the world of stem cell treatment will soon open up greatly. (CIRM Monthly Digest)

The Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) in Massachusetts is also proving to have possible future treatments. But, their treatments are not for diabetes; the scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital and HSCI worked together to engineer toxin-secreting stem cells to treat brain tumors, in efforts to fight against brain cancer. Neuroscientist Khalid Shah led a team to prove that stem cells loaded with cancer killing herpes viruses (now the cells are genetically engineered to secrete tumor-killing toxins) are able to kill tumor cells in mice. The question left is: Will it work for humans?

The treatments for diabetes and brain tumors are getting increasingly strong and they show evidence that there might be light at the end of the tunnel for these patients. Another study from the HSCI has shown that scientists are able to view the events leading to the progression of early-onset familial Alzheimer’s disease in 3D. Being able to understand the steps of how Alzheimer’s disease comes to be will help scientists better understand the disease and more quickly come up with a treatment. So far, the medical world is very successful and gives a bright future for more treatments to come.

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