There’s some major diabetes research happening right here in Colorado.

Researchers at the Barbara Davis Center on the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical campus in Aurora are using stem cells to eventually rid diabetics of having to inject insulin on a daily basis.

For people with Type 1 diabetes, a lack of insulin can be life-threatening.

If someone doesn’t have access to insulin, they could die. It’s something people with Type 1 diabetes have to think about on a daily basis.

Courtesy: Holger Russ, Barbara Davis CenterDescription: Immunofluorescence image of a section cut through a cluster. 

With work being done at the Barbara Davis Center, the eventual hope is that patients can have an injection of stem cells that do the insulin regulating for them.

According to Holger Russ, an assistant professor at the Barbara Davis Center, people who have to take insulin have to be aware of their levels every day, so this stem cell therapy approach could ultimately change the way they live their lives.

“It impacts every day, they always have to have their supplies ready," Russ said. "It’s a constant thing on their minds….with the cell therapy approach – what we are working on – this will be gone.”

The end result is still several years in the making, but researchers say they’ve started to lay the groundwork and are on their way to creating a better life for Type 1 diabetes patients – that’s as many as three million Americans.

Testing is underway, but it will take several years for the approach to be approved for use.

Russ says this sort of stem cell therapy is already a decade in the making, and that it could be used in our lifetimes. He says ultimately, his end goal is to prevent Type 1 diabetes and predict it.

“To generate functional cells that are better and better, and use the cells in what goes wrong in a person with the disease, and then we can find the drugs to help prevent type one diabetes from occurring in a patient,” Russ said.

Research conducted at the Barbara Davis Center is largely supported by the Children's Diabetes Foundation.