Researchers from Denmark are developing ways to make lab-grown insulin-producing cells safer.
The future of type 1 diabetes treatment is likely to come from living cells that can produce and release insulin inside the person’s body. In recent years, scientists have been using new techniques to allow human stem cells to grow an unlimited number of insulin-producing beta cells.
Living cells have advantages over taking insulin as they have the potential to directly respond to changing blood sugar levels and release insulin when needed to keep sugar levels stable. Currently there are a number of research teams working on techniques to develop these living cells in a way that will be safe and effective when implanted into the body.
The team from the University of Copenhagen have been developing a way to purify the cells to eliminate the risk of them developing tumours and growing uncontrollably.
The type of stem cells used by the researchers are human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs). The researchers have found that the cell surface protein glycoprotein 2 (GP2) allowed the team to isolate the pancreatic endoderm cells (PECs). In doing this, the researchers are able to get a purer sample of cells which could increase their effectiveness and safety when implanted into humans.
The research team includes Professor Henrik Semb and Assistant Professor Jacqueline Ameri, who have developed the company PanCryos to capitalise on their research findings.
Ameri, who is CEO of PanCryos, said, “In parallel with other groups in this field, we have been working on a cell therapy for type 1 diabetes for many years. What is unique about our approach is the simplification of our protocol which acknowledges that eventually the process will need to be scaled up for manufacturing.
“PanCryos is being established to ensure the development of the first scalable allogenic cell therapy for type 1 diabetes so we can offer the route to an affordable therapy by providing a product that will not be too expensive to produce, as has occurred too often in the developing cell therapy field.”
The study has been published in the Cell Reports journal.

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