22 February 2008

Diabetes Cell therapy: another breakthrough

Modern cell therapy of diabetes consists in transplantation of donor islet cells. This method of treatment is quite effective, but its use is significantly limited by the shortage of donor material and the need for constant immunosuppression. Therefore, most diabetic patients are forced to receive replacement therapy in the form of regular insulin injections throughout their lives. Many groups of researchers are engaged in the development of methods of cell therapy for diabetes, and it seems that the introduction of this method into the clinic has noticeably approached.

On Wednesday, February 20, Novocell, a company specializing in cell engineering, announced that its specialists were able to differentiate human embryonic stem cells into beta cells of the pancreas that produce insulin for the first time. The first tests of the new cell therapy technique on volunteers were successful.

In two earlier studies, Novocell scientists successfully transformed human embryonic stem cells into specific cells necessary for the formation of the pancreas, as well as into endocrine cells that produce insulin and other pancreatic hormones.

In their latest work, they demonstrated that implantation of pancreatic cells derived from human embryonic stem cells into mice leads to the formation of insulin-producing (islet) pancreatic cells that respond adequately to changes in glucose levels. Moreover, implantation of these cells prevents the development of diabetes in transgenic mice predisposed to beta cell death.

In addition to the method of producing insulin-producing cells from embryonic cells, the company suggests using the method of introducing cells into the body developed by its specialists, which allows avoiding immunosuppressive therapy. Successfully tested in clinical trials on donor islet cells, the graft encapsulation method in a special protective coating prevents the development of an immune reaction aimed at its rejection.

According to the president and CEO of Novocell, Dr. Alan J. Lewis, the company's specialists have developed an approach that may eventually become widely used as a replacement therapy for diabetes.

More detailed information can be obtained on the company's website.

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