A small trial is being conducted to see if small implants filled with insulin-producing stem cells could regulate blood sugar among people with type 1 diabetes.
Researchers at the University of Alberta, Canada have recruited 17 patients for the trial, which is the world’s first to study this innovative new treatment.
Participants will have small plastic pouches containing millions of insulin-producing cells implanted under their skin. Once blood vessels grow around the implants, this should allow the stem cells to release insulin based on the patient’s blood glucose levels.
Studies have shown the technology to be effective in mouse models of type 1 diabetes. This trial will evaluate whether it is safe for use in humans.
“So far it’s been very safe and it looks like it’s working the way we hoped it would,” study author Dr. James Shapiro told CTV News.
The research is at a very early stage, with results expected from the trial within the next two years, but one doctor has called the early indicators “terribly exciting”.
Meanwhile, Jan Hux, chief science officer of the Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA), has urged caution regarding the technology.
“Many technologies that look very promising in a mouse or a rat model don’t translate to the human sector,” said Hux.

“So while this is extremely promising, we can’t be sure that this particular membrane and particular cell strain will be the solution.”
Meanwhile, in the UK, a separate type 1 diabetes trial is recruiting participants for a small trial which will investigate whether an immunotherapy treatment could stop the progression of type 1 diabetes.

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