Practical Applications: Wharton’s Jelly for Diabetic Treatments
Stem cell treatments are exciting. The best way to harvest stem cells has been a matter of research and discussion. Cells for certain treatments have often been tested from bone marrow from healthy patients. However, there are many concerns about bone marrow stem cells. For example, studies have shown mixed results about their efficacy. Furthermore, obtaining bone marrow is a very painful, invasive procedure that has a risk of infection for the donor.
A huge breakthrough in regenerative medicine has been the use of Wharton’s Jelly. Wharton’s Jelly comes from the umbilical cord. The umbilical cord has three vessels. Surrounding these vessels is mucoid connective tissue, which is called Wharton’s Jelly. Wharton’s jelly is easy to obtain from discarded umbilical cords. Many umbilical cords are donated, and the cords are rich in stem cells, making them an excellent source to work with.
Wharton’s jelly has been found in studies to be effective in treating inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. These illnesses include lupus and multiple sclerosis. Wharton’s jelly can reverse partially or totally Graft vs. Host Disease (GVHD), a condition where donated cells attack the patient’s body, in 50% of patients. This article explores various ways Wharton’s jelly can be used in treatment of diabetes mellitus.
Wharton’s Jelly’s immunosuppressive capabilities make it ideal for treating type 1 diabetes. Also known as diabetes mellitus, it is an autoimmune disorder where T cells destroy insulin producing beta cells. In the United States, 1.25 Americans have Type 1 diabetes, and 5 million people are expected to be diagnosed by 2050. Type 1 diabetes results in $14 billion healthcare expenditures and lost income per year. Fewer than a third of people with Type 1 diabetes consistently achieve appropriate blood-glucose levels. The disease is increasingly expensive for individuals, resulting in 1 of 4 diabetics rationing insulin, a dangerous practice in controlling glucose levels. Constant high glucose levels can cause inflammation in organs, causing promoting fibrosis and irreversible damage.
Other potential risks of diabetes are:
- kidney failure,
- cardiovascular disease,
- vascular dysfunction.
Symptoms of diabetes include:
- excessive thirst and hunger,
- blurred vision,
- weight loss,
- irritability, and
- frequent infections.
Even though drugs can work to achieve glycemic control, they don’t prevent the complications. Stem cells have the ability to differentiate into function insulin producing cells. If doctors can eliminate the cause of disease, the pancreas can even regenerate.
Studies have shown that intravenous infusion of allogenic (from a donor) Wharton’s Jelly mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) is safe for patients with type 1 diabetes. Furthermore, blood glucose, glycosylated hemoglobin, C-peptide, and incidence of diabetic complications were significantly improved in one study. It is unknown exactly how Wharton’s Jelly MSC leads to these effects, but they are extremely promising.
Wharton’s Jelly treats diabetic wounds
Treatment with Wharton’s Jelly MSCs can help with diabetic wounds. Diabetes affects wound healing in many multivariate ways.
Diabetic wounds heal slowly, because high blood sugar:
- prevents nutrients and oxygen from making cells strong and energetic,
- prevents your immune system from functioning properly,
- results in a lack of neovascularization, the formation of new blood vessels that is important for new tissue growth;
- causes reduced collagen production. Collagen helps fibroblasts and keratinocytes to reach the wound to boost tissue growth.
- leads to malfunctioning macrophages. Macrophages clear cell debris, resolve inflammation, and promote fibrosis.
- increases inflammation.
All of these lead to slower wound healing.
Diabetic foot wounds
Diabetics are particularly prone to food ulcers, an open sore that 15% of patients with diabetes get on the bottom of their foot, resulting in 6% of these individuals being hospitalized. Diabetes is the leading cause of lower extremity amputations not caused by trauma, and 14-24% of diabetics developing a foot ulcer will require amputation. Part of the danger is that patients with diabetes can develop neuropathy, or nerve damage, from high glucose levels, which leads to them not being able to feel pain in their feet and the wound getting out of hand. Because of all these dangers, it is particularly important to develop new, effective treatments for diabetic wounds, and Wharton’s Jelly MSC shows great promise.
In one study, patients’ wounds were covered in amniotic membrane seeded with Wharton’s jelly MSCs, and the results appear to demonstrate that significant acceleration occurred in healing. Other studies have shown that Wharton’s Jelly MSCs enhance healing of diabetic wounds. Wharton’s jelly leads to nerve regeneration, neuroprotection, and reduced inflammation. In studies, patients experienced reepithelialization. Repithelialization is how the skin and mucus membranes replace superficial cells damaged or lost in a wound. They also experienced greater neovascularization, which is necessary to form granulation tissue. This is the new connective tissue and microscopic blood vessel that fill wounds. Finally, there was greater fibroproliferation, essential in cutaneous healing.
Other uses of Wharton’s Jelly in Type 1 diabetes
The future of treating Type 1 diabetes might involve Wharton’s jelly. Studies have shown that Wharton’s jelly cells promote insulin formation and can repair renal damage. Cells migrate to damaged organs and contributed lower glucose levels in 30% of treated mice, and these mice showed reduced symptoms.
In another important study, 61 patients were divided into two groups; one was given saline, and one was given an intravenous infusion using Wharton’s Jelly MSCs. During the 36-month follow-up, it was shown that the infusion improved the function of cells, reduced the incidence of diabetic complications, and increased pancreatic function.
Diabetes is a serious and growing public health issue that has significant costs in terms of the economy. The human costs can be devastating. While currently there are options for trying to control glucose levels, there is a need for an overall treatment that prevents type 1 diabetes and leads to repairs of the systems. Wharton’s Jelly and the cells it contains have shown great promise in reducing diabetes, and in treating wounds due to diabetes. To find out more about Wharton’s Jelly, visit www.whartonjelly.com.