The Harvard Type I Diabetes stem cell thing isn’t going so well…

Here we go again! Yet ANOTHER piece of stem cell research that was insanely overhyped until somebody discovered a fatal flaw. The short version: there’s been incredible excitement this past year because a new hormone was supposedly created through stem cell work, and it would create an incredibly efficient treatment for Type I diabetes. Here’s a good quote from the Harvard press release:

The hormone, called betatrophin, causes mice to produce insulin-secreting pancreatic beta cells up to thirty times the normal rate…it could eventually mean that instead of taking insulin injections three times a day, you might take an injection of this hormone once a week or once a month, or in the best case maybe even once a year.

Do the words “too good to be true” mean anything to you? How about “STAP”? That’s about what it’s turning out to be. Basically, the hormone doesn’t do what was claimed. While it undoubtedly does something, it certainly doesn’t have anything to do with producing those ballyhooed beta cells.

The thing I really wonder about is what kind of relevance this might have to Viacyte’s diabetes treatment (just got approved for human trials.) I don’t know, because I’m not exactly sure if or how the two are related. I do think that Viacyte has a better chance than most trials going on right now (they’re using hESC’s, for one thing,) but at this point, I wouldn’t be surprised by ANY outcome.

As for Harvard– what is WRONG with these people? How are these details slipping by? Unimportant little details, such as, oh, I don’t know, THE TREATMENT ISN’T WORKING??

Cathy Danielson
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Cathy Danielson

In 2011, my life was shattered when I was diagnosed with a mysterious, incurable disease that always ends in blindness. The only hope on the horizon was a drug that broke all barriers in early testing. This drug, which replaces damaged cells in the eye, comes from the new class of stem cell based treatments that could cure the incurable, providing hope for patients with cancer, heart failure, ALS, cerebral palsy, and many more fatal and disabling diseases.

I survived the disease, and I now have the only remission on record. But a remission is not a cure. The stem cell drug I need for a real cure is now rapidly moving towards approval in the rest of the world, but in the USA, it—and all other cellular therapies-- are still stuck behind prejudice, ignorance, and lack of funding. Hundreds of millions of desperate patients with incurable diseases need these drugs.

That’s why I’ve gone on to fight for greater public education on stem cell drugs, knowing that our laws must be changed so that all of us can get access to the best treatments instead of our health and our lives being held hostage by special interests.

I’m now a patient advocate whose work on stem cells and patients’ rights has been published in outlets such as the Oregonian. I am a manager at popular science and financial blog www.stemcellinvestor.com and a frequent speaker at many venues across the spectrum, including churches, scientific conferences, and atheist groups, and everything in between. I’m also an advocate for Right to Try laws that would allow access to experimental medication for terminal patients at the state level. Read the entire story in my upcoming book, And the Blind Shall See: A Skeptic Patient Surprised by Faith, Science, Family, and Miracle Cures.
Cathy Danielson
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