NHS sets up a ‘stem cell factory’ to treat patients with diabetes

Written by Elena Conroy

The NHS has announced a new clinical trial in which diabetes patients will be given a stem cell injection that will potentially treat their condition

Diabetes is the most common cause of end-stage kidney disease, killing 40,000 people a year in the UK. Approximately three in
four people with diabetes develop kidney disease, which is caused by damage to
the small blood vessels that supply the kidneys.

NHS Blood and Transplant is setting up a ‘stem
cell factory’ in Liverpool (UK) that will consist of giving experimental therapy to patients
at high risk of developing diabetes-related kidney problems. The 48 patients taking part in the study will
be treated at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust and Belfast
Health and Social Care Trust or at another trial site in Italy.

The patients will receive a stromal cell
injection grown from donated human bone marrow, as stromal cells are able to
differentiate into bone, cartilage and fat and have the unique ability to
release proteins that reduce inflammation in the kidney. It is hoped the injections will slow down or stop tissue
damage, removing the need for dialysis or transplants.

“Diabetic kidney disease is very common
so any therapy that could slow the progression of this disease would have a
significant impact,” explained project leader Timothy O’Brien, from the National
University of Ireland (Galway, Ireland).

In animal studies, the stromal cell
injections provided measurable improvements in kidney function and the same positive results will hopefully also be observed in the trial patients.

“This is an exciting project for us to
be involved with — especially as the treatment has the potential to lead to
lifesaving outcomes for a major illness,” concluded Eric Austin, head of
Stem Cell Immunotherapy at NHS Blood and Transplant’s site in Speke (Liverpool,

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-34570550