New research found a combination of human stem cell transplants and antidiabetic drugs improved glucose metabolism and body weight in mice with type 2 diabetes.

The new findings could open the door for clinical trials to test the first stem cell-based approach for insulin replacement, Cell Press reported.Current insulin delivery methods are often imprecise and promote weight gain. Modern drugs are also sometimes ineffective and can have severe side effects such as gastrointestinal problems.

In the trial they fed mice a high-fat diet to induce obesity, low responsiveness to insulin, and high blood glucose levels. The mice were then given transplants of encapsulated pancreatic progenitor cells developed from human embyonic stem cells, which eventually developed to be  insulin-secreting beta cells. These cells improved insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism. When this stem cell therapy was combined with  antidiabetic drugs it led to rapid weight loss and significant glucose metabolism improvements in the mice. 

In the future the researchers plan to try transplanting more mature insulin-producing cells into the mouse models in hopes of further reversing the effects of type 2 diabetes. The researchers noted a similar stem cell-based transplantation method recently received clearance by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Health Canada to be tested in humans with type 1 diabetes.

"Success in these clinical trials could pave the way for testing in patients with type 2 diabetes," said senior study author Timothy Kieffer of the University of British Columbia collaborated with BetaLogics. "Our hope is that a stem cell-based approach to insulin replacement will ultimately improve glucose control in patients with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, resulting in healthier, longer lives."

The findings were published in a recent edition of the journal Stem Cell Reports.