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University of Missouri

Diabetes Breakthrough

Diabetes researcher discovers how to help insulin-producing cells thrive.

Habib Zaghouani

Habib Zaghouani combines a new drug with adult stem cells to treat diabetes. Photo by Rob Hill.

Scientists have long known that diabetes occurs when the immune system kills insulin-producing cells. Now an MU researcher finds that the damage extends to blood vessels that nourish the cells. “When we realized how important the blood vessels were to insulin production, we developed a cure that combines a drug we created with adult stem cells from bone marrow,” says researcher Habib Zaghouani, J. Lavenia Edwards Chair in Pediatrics. “The drug stops the immune system attack, and the stem cells generate blood vessels that help insulin-producing cells multiply and thrive.” The discovery might also help treat other autoimmune diseases.