Type-1 diabetes is an all-too-common disease that forces people, many of them young children, to prick their fingers regularly to check their blood sugar levels and take insulin shots. But, new stem-cell technology could put an end to that. Researchers are hopeful that a type of stem-cell capsule could cure patients.
Now the first test of a type 1 diabetes treatment using stem cells has finally begun. In October, a San Diego man had two pouches of lab-grown pancreas cells, derived from human embryonic stem cells, inserted into his body through incisions in his back.
The research is being done by ViaCyte, which is growing immature pancreas cells and then inserting them into a patient's body, where it hopes they will become the beta cells that produce insulin and regulate blood sugar. It's encasing the cells in a mesh sack to protect them from the body's immune system.
So, far the results have been promising. The company tested the method on mice and found that the lab-grown beta cells were able regulate blood sugar and produce insulin, glucagon and somatostatin. It's now testing on human patients to make sure the method is safe.