Type 1 diabetes used to be a death sentence. After a diagnosis, patients were put on a starvation diet. The lucky ones would have a year or two to live. But, thanks to the discovery of insulin in the early 1920s, this is no longer the case.
We need insulin to regulate our blood sugar. After a meal, insulin helps our cells to use the sugar in our food. We use this sugar as fuel for energy – without insulin, sugar has nowhere to go. It stays in the bloodstream, and over time, damages blood vessels.
People with type 1 diabetes inject themselves with insulin to control their blood sugar level. However, while the treatment is a lifesaver, it can’t prevent people from developing diabetic complications. These conditions can be life limiting, so what if there was a treatment that was better than insulin injections?
Well, there might be, and it involves transplanting cells.
Over 450 million people have diabetes, but less than 10% of these people have the kind known as type 1. In type 1 diabetes, the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas stop working. Scientists don’t know exactly how this happens, but the immune system seems to attack these cells by accident.
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