Promising new treatment for Type 1 diabetes now being tested in candidates

January 16, 2018 – The Stem Cell Network (SCN) is proud to support two research teams who are working on an innovative stem cell therapy for type 1 diabetes. The therapy replaces damaged pancreatic cells with new ones grown in the lab, and it is now being tested in patients at the University of British Columbia. It is a first for Canada and underscores this country’s tremendous strength in stem cell research.

The goal of the therapy is to eliminate dependence on self-injected insulin, and spare those who live with type 1 diabetes from constant measurement of blood sugar. The therapy requires that ‘tea bag’ like devices be surgically implanted under the skin. Once implanted, the pancreatic cells contained in the packet are expected to mature into functional insulin-producing islet cells.

The first patient, implanted at the end of December in British Columbia, is part of a clinical trial led by UBC’s Dr. Timothy Kieffer. It is expected that up to 10 patients will receive this therapy in 2018. A second and associated trial out of the University of Alberta, led by Dr. James Shapiro, is scheduled to begin implanting selected patients within the coming weeks.

“It is an exciting time for diabetes research, as we are using stem cell based technologies to deliver promising therapies for those who are living with type 1 diabetes,” said Dr. Kieffer. He added, “We could not have moved forward with this clinical trial if it were not for the considerable support provided by the Stem Cell Network and the partnership we have with ViaCyte.”

SCN’s Scientific Director, Dr. Michael Rudnicki noted, “A key objective for the Stem Cell Network is to drive stem cell research into the clinic, where it can be accessed by those who live with a chronic disease. We are thrilled to support the work of both Dr. Kieffer and Dr. Shapiro as we know their research will be critical for providing a leading-edge therapy for type 1 diabetes.”

Type 1 diabetes is a chronic disease that affects more than 300,000 nationwide. Many who have type 1 diabetes do not produce sufficient insulin, a hormone that helps our bodies turn food into energy by regulating the sugars we consume. Serious health complications such as kidney failure, blindness, inadequate circulation and coma can all arise from the disease.

The SCN-funded trial is in partnership with the University of British Columbia/Vancouver Coastal Health, ViaCyte and the Allard Foundation. To read UBC’s release on this trial please click here.


About the Stem Cell Network: Supporting and building Canada’s stem cell and regenerative medicine research sector has been the raison d’être of the Stem Cell Network (SCN) since its inception in 2001.  Its work has been supported by the Government of Canada from the beginning. SCN’s mandate is to act as a catalyst for enabling the translation of stem cell research into clinical applications, commercial products and public policy. In just over 16 years SCN has forged a national community that has transformed stem cell research in Canada, brought research to the point where regenerative medicine is changing clinical practice and established an outstanding international reputation. SCN has pushed the boundaries of what was a basic research area towards translational outcomes for the clinic and marketplace.  www.stemcellnetwork.ca


Media Contact:

Cate Murray
Executive Director, Stem Cell Network