Is a Type 1 Diabetes Cure Just Around the Corner?

In a recent announcement, the FDA has given ViaCyte Inc. the go ahead to start clinical trials on what could be a cure for Type 1 diabetes.

The company is experimenting with beta cell encapsulation, which is a form of stem cell research.
A type 1 diabetic lacks insulin because the disease causes the body’s immune system to attack beta cells in the pancreas. Beta cells are responsible for insulin production. The result is that those suffering from the condition must get their insulin from injections or a pump instead. And as many diabetics know, without proper insulin and blood sugar control, they are subject to complications such as heart disease, kidney failure and blindness.

What ViaCyte is doing is creating beta cells from stem cells. They then put the cells in a protective cover that lets insulin get through, but blocks the immune system attack. This process allows the insulin to travel through the bloodstream normally. These encapsulated cells would then be implanted into the diabetic’s body and work up to two years before needing replacement.

Although technological advances have made living with type 1 diabetes much easier, this clinical trial spells hope for curing the disease once and for all.

Photo: Joslin