NEW YORK, Dec. 13, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- JDRF announced today its support of a pioneering diabetes research program that is developing a first-of-its-kind cell therapy for type 1 diabetes (T1D) and other forms of insulin-dependent diabetes. The therapy is a combination product that packages immature cells made from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) that over time develop into mature pancreatic hormone producing cells (pro-islet) including insulin-producing cells. The research is an important step toward producing an unlimited source of insulin-producing cells that could serve as replacements for those destroyed in both T1D and insulin-dependent type 2 diabetes. The diabetes program is being funded by JDRF, the largest charitable funder of T1D research in the world, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), and ViaCyte, a San Diego, California-based biotechnology company focused on diabetes.
Ongoing research of this combination product in rodents has demonstrated that within two to three months of implantation, the immature human pancreatic hormone cells mature into functional pancreatic hormone producing cells, including functional insulin producing cells that can regulate blood glucose.
Existing cell therapies such as islet and pancreas transplantation have the potential to cure T1D by restoring normal islet function and normalizing blood glucose levels in people with T1D. Because the number of cadaveric human donors for pancreatic islets is limited, ViaCyte's program will provide a replenishable supply of functional insulin-producing cells. Furthermore, packaging the cells in a device ("encapsulation") creates a physical barrier around the cells and has the potential to protect the transplanted cells from immune rejection, and may eliminate the need for chronic immunosuppressive drugs. The ultimate goal of this partnership is to help patients with T1D restore their ability to regulate blood glucose, thereby reduci