Umbilical cord blood study to prevent type 1 diabetes underway

by Barbara Hewitt on May 28, 2015

A four-year-old girl from Australian has become the first in the world to be injected with blood from her own umbilical cord in a bid to stop her developing type 1 diabetes.

Isla Robinson, whose half brother and sister both have type 1 diabetes, is taking part in a new trial led by a team at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Sydney, which is pioneering the use of stem cells from umbilical blood.


Researchers believe umbilical cord blood could change the immune systems of children at risk of type 1 diabetes

Professor Maria Craig, who is leading the research team, believes that the umbilical cord blood could change the immune systems of children at risk of type 1 diabetes due to its rich content of stem cells and immune cells.

Isla has had her blood tests every six months for the last three years and was recently found to have three of the four possible antibodies that heighten her risk of developing type 1 diabetes.

Isla’s cord blood was taken when she was born in 2011 and she is now the first of 20 children scheduled to take part in the study.

‘All the studies suggest she will actually develop it one day, so if we can stop that it would be fantastic. I’m hoping we can completely switch off that autoimmune process and she will never get it,’ said Craig.

She explained that it is possible that the cord blood, and in particular the high amount of immune cells called T-cells it contains, will not prevent diabetes in the long term, but will significantly delay the age at which Isla develops it.

‘Even if it could delay it to adolescence, until she is older, that would be fantastic because that also buys us time for other therapies that are being developed,’ she added.

Rachel Weldon, Isla’s mother said when the cord blood was stored it just seemed like a good insurance policy at the time. ‘Now being involved in this trial we just feel so grateful,’ she added.

Another study is underway in Bavaria, Germany, where children with type 1 diabetes are undergoing an infusion of their own cord blood to see if it can regenerate insulin producing cells in the pancreas and improve blood glucose control.

The researchers are also looking at the migration of transfused cord blood stem cells and studying the potential changes in metabolism and immune function leading to islet regeneration.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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