More than half of the newly diagnosed patients with type 1 diabetes who got an experimental treatment for the disease did not need insulin injections for at least a year. Patients also showed improvements in the functioning of the insulin-producing cells that are attacked and destroyed in patients with type 1 diabetes. Four of the 23 patients who took part in the study remained insulin free for at least three years and one patient went without insulin injections for more than four years.
The patients were the first to receive the novel stem cell transplant therapy to treat their type 1 diabetes. After receiving transplants of their own blood stem cells, about half of the patients in the study became insulin free for an average of two and a half years. But the treatment, which included the use of highly toxic immune-system suppressing drugs, was not without troubling side effects.