"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Stem cell therapy implant shows promise for type 1 diabetes

December 11, 2023 – An experimental device containing tens of millions of stem cells reduced the necessity for insulin shots in individuals with Type 1 diabetesin keeping with a new study – A treatment that researchers say could sooner or later provide a cure for the chronic, life-altering disease.

Researchers on the University of British Columbia and Vancouver Coastal Health used tiny implants crammed with lab-grown pancreatic cells called VC-02.

The study, published within the journal Natural biotechnologyThe study involved 10 individuals who were unable to supply insulin naturally in the beginning of the study. After 6 months with the implant, three of them showed significant improvement. Your body spent more time in the traditional blood sugar range, reducing the necessity for external insulin.

“The hope is to make these cells strong enough to no longer need insulin injections at all,” said Dr. David Thompson, principal investigator on the Vancouver trial site and clinical director of the Vancouver General Hospital Diabetes Centre. “I believe that a cure will emerge from this as early as 2024.”

Type 1 diabetes is a disease wherein the immune system destroys insulin-producing cells within the pancreas, called beta cells. Insulin is a hormone that regulates sugar within the blood. The disease – sometimes called juvenile diabetes – is mostly diagnosed between the ages of 4 and 6 and through early puberty.

In the United States, non-Hispanic and white persons are more than likely to have type 1 diabetes, with men and ladies affected at concerning the same rate. If a detailed member of the family has the disease, the chance increases. There are roughly 1.24 million people living with type 1 diabetes within the United States; This number is anticipated to succeed in 5 million by 2050.

With type 1 diabetes, it’s as if the body's insulin factory has shut down. People affected by this disease must take insulin from the beginning.

This is different from Type 2 diabetes, wherein the body doesn’t use insulin properly. It may be treated with lifestyle changes, medication, and sometimes external insulin injections.

Until a century ago – when insulin was discovered – Diabetes was a death sentence. A 14-year-old boy dying of diabetes in a Toronto hospital became the primary person to receive the brand new treatment in 1922. Within 24 hours, his high blood sugar levels dropped to close normal levels.

“Insulin therapy for people with type 1 diabetes is better than ever, but it is still not a cure,” Thompson said. “This is probably the first wave of a new era of medicine with cell therapy.”

The study tested an experimental cell therapy developed by biotechnology company ViaCyte.

Thompson and his colleagues used devices concerning the size of a small bandage that were implanted directly under the skin. In contrast to at least one Glucose monitor – which can also be inserted under the skin but only estimates blood sugar levels – the stem cell device provides a gentle supply of insulin to the body.

The process builds on one Study 2021 This showed that this approach may help the human body produce insulin. The latest study increased the variety of devices for everyone and improved the design to support the survival of cells grown within the lab.

All people within the study had no insulin production at baseline and underwent surgery at sites in Vancouver, Belgium and the US to receive as much as 10 device implants each. After six months, three of them showed clear signs of insulin production, which remained constant throughout the year-long study. One person within the study showed significant improvement as they spent more time within the goal blood sugar range and reduced their need for extra every day insulin by 44%.

“Each device is like a miniature insulin production factory,” said co-author Timothy Kieffer, PhD, a professor within the departments of surgery and cell and physiology on the University of British Columbia and former chief scientific officer of ViaCyte. The cells are “packaged into the device to essentially restore the blood sugar-regulating functions of a healthy pancreas.”

A cure for type 1 diabetes would also mean stopping several other health complications related to the disease: blindness, kidney problems, lack of limbs and even life-threatening drops in blood sugar during sleep. Diabetes also significantly increases the chance of getting a heart attack or stroke.

The study has two major limitations, said Robert Gabbay, MD, chief scientific and medical officer of the American Diabetes Association, who was not involved within the study. Not only is it small, however the technology has didn’t normalize blood sugar levels, which is the goal.

But it's promising, he said. Cell substitute therapies have previously faced a significant hurdle: the immune system attacks the implanted cells, requiring potentially harmful immunosuppressants.

“This is particularly problematic for people with type I diabetes because the original cause of type 1 is autoimmune destruction of beta cells,” Gabbay said. “A number of investigative teams have worked to place beta cells isolated from the immune system. This early study shows a proof of concept.”