Type 1 diabetes is also known as insulin-dependent or juvenile diabetes. It occurs when the body’s pancreas fails to produce sufficient insulin required for blood glucose to drive cellular energy.
To date, there is no cure for type 1 diabetes. However, the condition is managed with insulin, lifestyle, and diet to inhibit further complications.
Brian Shelton a 64-year-old man battled with was type 1 diabetes for almost 50 years. “You spend your entire life every minute of the day, trying to keep track of where your numbers are at. I do all the things that I’m supposed to do and nothing was working,” says Shelton.
Hence, he agreed to the novel trial where he was infused with insulin-producing cells in the pancreas (with his wife’s consent a trial organized by a Harvard scientist and run by Vertex Pharmaceuticals).
Stem Cell Treatment for Type 1 Diabetes
Following this, his daily insulin requirements have come down to 91% with significant control of blood glucose. “It’s a whole new life, it’s a miracle,” says Shelton.
The trial for the first time in 5 years is advanced to take place among 17 patients with severe type 1 diabetes. In addition, the results of the first stage also require further peer review and caution before it becomes available to over 42 million type 1 diabetes sufferers.
The study team led by Harvard’s Dr. Doug Milton dedicated nearly 20 years to converting stem cells into islet cells (cells responsible for producing pancreatic insulin).
The study thereby demonstrates significant advancement in the management of type 1 diabetes where PSC-derived pancreatic progenitor cells transform into islet-cells upon implantation.
“These results from the first patient treated with [the stem cells] are unprecedented. What makes these results truly remarkable is that they were achieved with treatment at half the target dose,” says Bastiano Sanna, PhD, Chief of Cell and Genetic Therapies at Vertex in a statement.