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Scientists Create First-Ever Stem Cell Implant to Cure Diabetes

Posted by Douglas W. Stoddard MD, M Sp Med, Dip Sport Med, ES on 9 August 2017
Scientists Create First-Ever Stem Cell Implant to Cure Diabetes

According to The World Health Organization (WHO), more than 422 million people across the planet are living with one of two types of diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is characterized by the body's immune system attacking cells in the pancreas, preventing the organ from producing insulin for the body. Type 2 diabetes (TD2) occurs when the body doesn't know how to utilize the insulin produced in the body.

Unlike TD2, which can be cured or reversed with a revamped diet and regular exercise, scientists have yet to find a cure for T1D.

Currently, the best form of diabetes treatment is via balanced insulin injections. Not only is this temporary solution cumbersome to perform daily, patients with hypoglycemia (low glucose) unawareness may be unaware when their blood sugar drops to dangerously low levels.

Researchers continue to search for a cure to liberate T1D from daily insulin doses, and the risks of declining blood sugar levels.

One company may have found such a cure.

Insulin Independence

ViaCyte, a company based in San Diego, California, has begun clinical trials with two T1D patients and the company's new PEC-Direct implant device.

These credit card-sized implants are the first to ever be inserted into a diabetic patient, containing cells generated from embryonic stem cells to treat the condition.

The cells in the device, created through stem cells, can mature into the specialized islet cells that are destroyed by Type 1 diabetes. This has been stem cell scientists' major hurdle for over a decade finding a way to use stem cells to replace the cells attacked in the pancreas that manufacture insulin, and getting them to work with the body.

The revolutionary implant sits just under the skin, where it automatically compensates for the missing islet cells, releasing insulin when blood sugar levels rise.

"If it works, we would call it a functional cure," says Paul Laikind, of ViaCyte. "It's not truly a cure because we wouldn't address the autoimmune cause of the disease, but we would be replacing the missing cells."

Controlling Complications

The most important upside for T1D patients is being free from constantly monitoring blood sugar levels and injecting insulin. Complications associated to T1D, including hypoglycemia unawareness, would be alleviated, too; these complications can be life-threatening.

"Patients with high-risk type 1 diabetes complications, such as hypoglycemia unawareness, are at constant risk of life-threatening low blood glucose," clinical trial investigator Jeremy Pettus from University of California, San Diego, said in a ViaCyte press release. "The PEC-Direct islet cell replacement therapy 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 manage life-threatening hypoglycemic episodes," adds ViaCyte president and CEO Paul Laikind. "We believe that the PEC-Direct product candidate has the potential to transform the lives of these patients."

While the complications would be managed, patients would still need to take immunosuppressive drugs to stop the body from turning on the new, stem-cell-created islet cells.

Safe & Sustainable

Researchers are hopeful these stem cell-filled implants will change the way T1D is treated in the future. A similar method to treat diabetes has been used for nearly 20 years, taking pancreas cells from organ donors and injecting them into T1D patients. This alleviates insulin injections, but isn't a viable long-term solution there simply aren't enough donors, limiting how many people can undergo the diabetes treatment.

ViaCyte's implants exploit embryonic stem cells, which can be multiplied in unlimited amounts. So, if the treatment is successful, it can be a viable long-term solution that's both safe and sustainable.

"A limitless source of human insulin-producing cells would be a major step forward on the journey to a potential cure for diabetes," says James Shapiro at the University of Alberta, Canada, who collaborated with ViaCyte on the project.

"For sure, this will in the end prove to be a durable landmark for progress in diabetes care."


While stem cells aren't a viable solution to diabetes yet, stem cell injections are a proven and effective method in treating chronic injuries, muscle tears, arthritis, and other physical conditions.

From PRP therapy to other progressive regenerative medicines, RegenerVate's injection therapy utilizes your body's own cells to naturally expedite healing in sore areas.

Contact us today for more information about our PRP therapies and stem cell injection treatments.
Author: Douglas W. Stoddard MD, M Sp Med, Dip Sport Med, ES
About: Dr. Stoddard is a sport medicine and injection physician in Toronto and is the Medical Director of RegenerVate. After receiving his medical degree from the University of Toronto, he trained in Australia at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra, obtaining his Master Degree in Sport Medicine. His injection training, including ultrasound, PRP and Prolotherapy, was primarily done in the USA. He is a diplomat of the Canadian Academy of Sport and Exercise Medicine (CASEM), is married and a proud father of two boys. He is an avid triathlete and occasional guitar player.
Tags: Treatment Options Stem Cell Research

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