Umbilical Cord Blood and Type 1 Diabetes

A road ahead or dead end?

  1. David Bleich, MD
  1. From the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, New Jersey Medical School, Newark, New Jersey.
  1. Corresponding author: David Bleich, bleichda{at}

It is our anticipation and hope that stem cells will cure type 1 diabetes someday because of their limitless capacity to differentiate as needed into the vital tissue or organ.

In theory, pluripotent cells have the capacity to reprogram a hostile immune response to tolerate pancreatic β-cells and to regenerate pancreatic β-cell mass. These two factors are the necessary ingredients for reversing type 1 diabetes. However, in practice there are many unanswered scientific questions that need clarification before we claim success.

In this issue of Diabetes Care, Haller et al. (1) report their interim results about autologous umbilical cord blood infusion into young children with type 1 diabetes. Children aged >1 year who developed type 1 diabetes and had banked umbilical cord blood at an approved center were recruited into this study at the University of Florida. Cord blood infusion was performed after the diagnosis of type 1 diabetes at a mean time of 4.1 months (range 2.5–7.1) and into children with a mean age of 5.5 years (3.1–7.3). The children were brought back for clinical, metabolic, and immunologic evaluation at 3, 6, 9, and 12 months after umbilical cord blood transfusion. Ethics considerations prevented infusion of umbilical cord blood into an age-matched nondiabetic control group, so an age-matched group of type 1 diabetic subjects …

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