Top 5 developments in curing type 1 diabetes
A cure is coming for type 1 diabetes, perhaps in this generation.
Scientists across the world are exploring numerous angles of research in a bid to rid an estimated three million people of type 1 diabetes in the United States.
We take a look at five recent developments that have generated excitement in the diabetes community as a prospective cure for type 1 diabetes looms on the horizon.
5. Drug repurposing
Verapamil was discovered by researchers at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, US, to slow the decline of insulin-producing beta cells and restore the ability of diabetic mice to produce insulin.
Verapamil also reduces levels of TXNIP, a protein in pancreatic beta cells which is released in people with type 1 diabetes, triggering a process which kills the insulin-producing cells.
52 adult patients newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes will be enrolled for these trials over the coming year, which have been supported by a $2.1 million grant from the JDRF.
4. Artificial pancreas
Clinical trials on humans are also scheduled this year for the ßAir device, an implantable bio-artificial pancreas from Israeli company Beta-O2.
The first of eight patients with type 1 diabetes was implanted with ßAir in November 2014, which responds to blood glucose levels without the assistance of computer algorithms. This has so far limited the progress of this kind of treatment.
The device produces insulin from live beta cells, which are protected from attack in the immune system. The compromise for this protection is that the cells cannot access oxygen from the blood, which is why the device is kept topped up with oxygen.
The two-year pilot study is set to cost $1 million and will evaluate the safety, survival and function of the implanted Beta-O2 system to ensure it is simple to use in day-to-day life.
3. Follicular helper T cells
For the first time, a specific T cell – the follicular helper T cell – was identified earlier this month as the reported cause of type 1 diabetes.
The cell was acknowledged by Professor Walker and her team at Royal Free Hospital, Hampstead, UK, which triggers an immune response resulting in insulin-producing cells being destroyed.
Walker and colleagues are now aiming to ascertain why T cells cause the destruction of insulin-producing cells in people with type 1 diabetes.
The significance of this finding was reported by Walker as an “important discovery” on the road to developing a cure for type 1 diabetes.
2. Beta cell transplantation
Scientists at Harvard University discovered a major breakthrough in October 2014 after successfully manufacturing the millions of beta cells necessary for human transplantation in type 1 diabetics.
These insulin-producing beta cells function as normal beta cells would, with tests on animals demonstrating that insulin is still being produced by the cells several months after implantation.
Xander University Professor at Harvard University, Doug Melton, believes their team are “now just one pre-clinical step away from the finish line”.
Hopes have now been raised that human transplantation could take place within years and that type 1 diabetics could produce their own insulin, instead of taking multiple daily injections.
1. Islet cell encapsulation
VC-01, a product from ViaCyte, the partner company of JDRF, encapsulates contains thousands of immature human islet cells derived from stem cells. These then mature into insulin-producing cells following implantation.
The first successful islet cell encapsulation therapy was implanted into a person with type 1 diabetes in October 2014, and additional trials are expected for 2015.
The VC-01 system keeps cells protected from immune system destruction, which could allow people with type 1 diabetes to automatically produce their own insulin.
VC-01 is being trialled at the University of California to evaluate its safety on people who have had type 1 diabetes for at least three years.
Which drug developments are you most excited for that could prospectively cure type 1 diabetes? Do you think that we will see a cure sooner rather than later?
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