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Potential New Diabetes Treatment Being Tested in Vancouver

By January 23, 2018January 29th, 2018No Comments

The University of British Columbia and Vancouver Coastal Health are testing a possible diabetes cure that replaces a person’s damaged pancreatic cells with new ones grown in the lab.

The replacement cells are grown from embryonic stem cells. Researchers believe that if the new cells mature, multiply, and behave as hoped, recipients would be able to lessen – or even eliminate – their dependence on self-injected insulin. They might also be spared from having to continually monitor their blood sugar, usually by pricking their fingers several times a day.

“If these replacement cells restore a person’s ability to produce their own insulin when needed, it would prevent dangerous episodes of low blood sugar and lessen the complications resulting from high blood sugar, such as blindness, heart attacks and kidney failure,” said Dr. David Thompson, a principal investigator in the clinical trial, a UBC clinical assistant professor of endocrinology and medical director of the Vancouver General Hospital Diabetes Centre.

“Eventually, it might even free people from a lifetime of constantly checking their blood sugar and injecting themselves, transforming treatment of this disease into a more manageable condition.”

The trial could involve about 10 or more people in Vancouver with a severe form of type 1 diabetes, in which a person’s immune system attacks the pancreas, degrading or eliminating its ability to produce insulin.

A UBC-Vancouver Coastal Health team, supported by a $500,000 grant from the Stem Cell Network of Canada, implanted the cells into one person in late December at Vancouver General Hospital, and they hope to do more implants in coming weeks. Participants will be followed for two years to see if the implanted cells mature into insulin-producing beta cells and other cells capable of controlling a person’s blood sugar, and whether there are significant side effects.