This article was originally published by Futurism. Read the original article at this link:
Clinical trials have begun for ViaCyte's PEC-Direct, an implant that produces insulin-producing cells from stem cells to treat patients with type 1 diabetes.
If successful, the implant could eliminate the need for these patients to be injected with insulin.
The World Health Organization reports that more than 422 million people around the world live with diabetes, a condition that can take two forms.
In the first, the body's immune system attacks the cells of the pancreas, which prevents the body from producing enough insulin [type 1 diabetes (T1D)]. In the second, the body does not know how to use the insulin that is produced [type 2 diabetes (TD2)].
T1D accounts for approximately 10 percent of diabetes cases and, unlike T2D, which can often be reversed by changes in lifestyle such as weight loss or increased exercise, scientists have yet to discover how to prevent or cure T1D
At this time, insulin injections are the best way to control DT1, but this method can be problematic in high-risk cases: patients with hypoglycemia (low glucose) without knowledge, for example, may have problems adjusting their dose of insulin.
Fortunately, researchers around the world are working hard to find a cure that relieves patients with T1D from their dependence on insulin injections, and now, a group may have found it.
Last week, the California-based company ViaCyte began trials with two T1D patients who were implanted with the company's PEC-Direct device.
Each of these implants the size of a credit card carries cells derived from stem cells. These cells are designed to mature within the human body in the specialized cells of the pancreas that the immune system destroys in people with T1D. The implant is placed just under the skin and releases insulin when necessary.
"Patients with complications of high-risk type 1 diabetes, such as lack of knowledge about hypoglycaemia, are at constant risk of low blood glucose levels," said clinical researcher Jeremy Pettus of the University of California, San Diego, in an interview. ViaCyte press release.
"Islet cell replacement therapy PEC-Direct is designed to help patients with the most urgent medical need."
"There are limited treatment options for patients with high-risk type 1 diabetes to control life-threatening episodes of hypoglycaemia," said ViaCyte president and CEO Paul Laikind.
"We believe that the PEC-Direct product candidate has the potential to transform the lives of these patients."
In truth, freeing patients with T1D from the need for constant insulin injections has not been an easy task. Researchers in Finland have investigated it for 25 years and only recently have they developed a vaccine to prevent type 1 diabetes; that progress will go to clinical trials by 2018.
The ViaCyte device is another promising discovery.
Prior to last week's clinical trial, PEC-Direct implants that used smaller amounts of stem cells in 19 patients with diabetes were tested. Although these matured in the desired islet cells, the limited number was not designed to treat the condition.
The PEC-Direct implants received by the two patients last week contain more cells. The hope is that within three months, when the cells have matured, they can replace the injections by releasing insulin automatically when necessary.
If it works, all T1D patients will have to do is take immunosuppressant drugs to make sure their bodies do not reject new cells. That is a small price to pay to get rid of daily injections.
As James Shapiro at the University of Alberta, Canada, told New Scientist: "An unlimited source of human insulin-producing cells would be an important step on the road to a possible cure for diabetes."
Video credits to Hey! Its Proved! YouTube channel