December 14, 2011

JDRF to support a company developing encapsulated islets


JDRF supporting ViaCyte is more remarkable than the headline leads one to believe. Picture this: if ViaCyte is successful at engineering a way to sustain insulin independence without immunosuppression, hypoglycemia, or other diabetes-related complications, we could be looking at the panacea of insulin-dependent diabetes.

ViaCyte is a stem cell engineering company dedicated to creating and commercializing cell therapies to treat diabetes. The ultimate goal of this partnership is to help patients with type 1 diabetes restore their ability to regulate blood glucose, thereby reducing or eliminating the need for constant self-management and administration of insulin.

The therapy is a combination product that will encapsulate, or package, immature cells made from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) that over time develop into mature pancreatic hormone producing cells (pro-islet) including insulin-producing cells. The research is an important step toward producing an unlimited source of insulin-producing cells. Finding an unlimited source of these cells has been one of the biggest speed bumps in the road to a sustainable means of treating diabetes.

Ongoing research of this combination product in rodents has demonstrated that within two to three months of implantation, the immature human pancreatic hormone cells mature into functional pancreatic hormone producing cells, including functional insulin producing cells that can regulate blood glucose.

The diabetes program is being funded by JDRF, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) and ViaCyte. It’s refreshing to know that the new goal of JDRF research is to restore insulin production in people with type 1 diabetes This is the kind of news that makes me smile because it may putĀ  fully-functional insulin back into my body.