An estimated 1.25 million people in the U.S. have type 1 diabetes (T1D). T1D is an autoimmune disease in which the pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that helps the body process glucose (sugar) from food.
The disease can strike suddenly in children and adults and leads to a lifelong dependence on insulin injections or an insulin pump. Subhadra C. Gunawardana and David Piston of Vanderbilt University previously found that embryonic brown fat transplants can establish normal blood sugar levels without the use of insulin in a mouse model of insulin-deficient diabetes.
In a new study, the team found that brown fat transplant reversed T1D and restored glucose tolerance to normal in non-obese diabetic mice (in 53 percent of the study sample).
They also found that brown fat transplantation before T1D onset could delay or prevent the disease altogether.
Though still in an experimental phase, brown fat transplant could hold promise as a permanent treatment for T1D.
"Once the success rates of this technique are optimized and suitable alternatives to embryonic tissue are established, insulin-independent reversal of diabetes using adipose tissue can become a realistic option," the researchers wrote.
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