‘Big Milestone:’ Insulin-producing cells grown from patient’s own stem cells safe for transplantation, Edmonton research finds

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Insulin-producing cells grown from a patient’s own stem cells are safe for transplantation, say University of Alberta (U of A) researchers aiming to prevent diabetic patients from injecting insulin forever.

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Researchers include James Shapiro of the University of Alberta, who led the team that developed the Edmonton Protocol in the 1990s, the process that successfully transplants islet-producing Langerhans cells. insulin in the liver of people with type 1 diabetes, releasing most of the need. for daily insulin injections. These patients, however, still need anti-rejection drugs, which can increase the risk of cancer and kidney damage. The number of donated islet cells available is also limited.

The goal of the research now is to develop an unlimited supply of islet cells that can be transplanted without the need for anti-rejection drugs, a press release from the U of A.

The research team has had early success in a first human clinical trial to test whether pancreatic cells grown from a patient’s own stem cells can be safely implanted and start producing insulin .

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Of the 17 patients who received implants, 35 percent showed signs of insulin production in their blood after meals within six months of implantation, and 63 percent showed signs of insulin production. inside implant devices when they have been removed after one year.

“This is a very positive conclusion,” said Shapiro, professor of surgery, medicine and surgical oncology in the faculty of medicine and dentistry at the University of Alberta and holder of the Research Chair at the University of Alberta. Canada in Transplant Surgery and Regenerative Medicine.

“This is not the end of the game, but it is an important step on the road to success, demonstrating that islet stem cell therapies are safe and can begin to show some sign of effectiveness in patients. in clinic. “

As part of the trial, adult diabetic patients at six centers in Canada, the United States and Europe received implants of several small, permeable devices filled with millions of cells each. The cells were taken from the patients’ own stem cells and then chemically transformed into programmed stem cells to become islet cells.

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The team reported on their proof of concept and safety study in a recent article published in the journal Cell Reports Medicine.

Shapiro said that although determining safety was the primary focus of this phase of the trial, at least one patient who had 10 devices implanted was able to significantly reduce their insulin dose, indicating potential effectiveness.

The next step will be to determine how many pancreatic cells derived from stem cells are needed for a transplant to optimize insulin production in patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

“We have seen a lot of progress in the last 100 years since the Canadian discovery of insulin,” said Shapiro, who began researching a better treatment for diabetes 38 years ago. “The race is not over yet, but we are in our last laps and I really believe we can cross that ribbon.

“Cellular therapies have the promise of offering something much better than insulin therapy. “

nbergot@postmedia.com

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