U tests new transplant treatment for Type 1 diabetes
Researchers at the University of Minnesota have studied everything from human organ donors to specially grown pigs as sources of insulin-producing islet cells for people with type 1 diabetes who lack them.
Now they are testing the transplant of islets from a new source — embryonic stem cells.
The university earlier this fall became the third U.S. academic institution to transplant an islet cell product made by California-based ViaCyte in patients with severe and poorly controlled diabetes.
A stem cell solution to producing islets could be a significant step in the treatment of type 1 diabetes, said Dr. Melena Bellin, the university researcher leading the local arm of the ViaCyte study. While islets can be transplanted from deceased organ donors, that supply is limited and unpredictable.
“Really, to overcome that barrier, you have to find some sort of renewable source of islets,” she said.
Insulin is a hormone in the pancreas that regulates the body’s storage and use of sugar. Type 1 diabetes is diagnosed when people lack the islets to produce insulin.
Gregory Romero was the second to sign up for the trial. The 43-year-old web developer has resented his type 1 diabetes but managed it through insulin injections.
In recent years he has become less sensitive to fluctuations in his blood sugar, which has resulted in blackouts. Once, he awoke after falling down stairs. Another time, he couldn’t walk and had to crawl out of his house to meet paramedics.
Having a chance at a treatment that could stabilize his blood sugar felt like “winning the lottery,” said Romero, w Continue reading