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Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that affects the daily lives of approximately 300,000 Canadians. It occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that make insulin. The positive news is that an innovative stem cell therapy may be the best answer for future treatment.

SCN is supporting novel research in the field, including two first-in-human clinical trials. Both trials, one led by Dr. Timothy Kieffer at the University of British Columbia and the other by Dr. James Shapiro at the University of Alberta, are investigating implantable “tea bag” like devices that encapsulate beta cell precursors. Once implanted under the skin of a patient with diabetes, these cells mature into functional insulin-producing islet cells and are absorbed into the bloodstream. The ultimate goal is to develop a therapeutic supply of insulin for patients, thereby eliminating the need for and expense of regular insulin injections or an islet cell transplant.

The trials are working with two encapsulation products that vary in size and design. Investigators have thus far determined key modifications critical for successful engraftment and vascularization – ultimately improving the quality of the technology. At the end of the project funding, 13 patients had been treated or enrolled in the Alberta-based trial and five had been treated in BC, with two additional patients scheduled for transplant. The trial studies will continue through 2018 to further determine safety and efficacy of the encapsulation devices. Drs. Shapiro and Kieffer are hopeful that by the end of the clinical trial process a reliable and cost-effective device will be available for those who live with diabetes.

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