A pilot study underway at the University of Alberta, Canada, is using small implants filled with stem cells to regulate insulin in a handful of diabetic patients — a technology that, if proven effective, could replace injections. Five patients from Edmonton, Alberta, are among 17 others involved in the trial, which is the world’s first experiment of the innovative new treatment.
And while the research is in its initial stages, one doctor involved in the research calls the early indicators ‘terribly exciting’, adding, “So far it’s been very safe and it looks like it’s working the way we hoped it would,” said British-born doctor James Shapiro, Director of the Clinical Islet Transplant Program at the University of Alberta.
The testing and injection routine — alongside dietary restrictions – that people with diabetes live with daily can be complicated and worrisome, which is why many patients are excited about the prospect of a self-releasing insulin implant. The innovative new treatment involves implanting small plastic pouches filled with millions of insulin-producing cells under a patient’s skin. Blood vessels then grow around the implants, allowing the stem cells inside the pouch to release the necessary dose of insulin based on the patient’s blood sugar levels.
The technology has already proved effective on lab mice. Doctors are now testing whether the method is safe for humans. For one Edmonton man involved in the study, the method offers hope. Chris Townsend, 38, says he watches his sugar levels and needs daily insulin injections and blood tests.Townsend had eight of the plastic pouches implanted under his arms and abdomen at the University of Alberta Hospital in early March.
Early results from the study are expected within the next two years, with doctors aiming to expand the research across North America. The Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA) remains cautiously optimistic about the implant technology. “Many technologies that look very promising in a mouse or a rat model don’t translate to the human sector,” said Jan Hux, chief science officer of the CDA. “So while this is extremely promising, we can’t be sure that this particular membrane and particular cell strain will be the solution.”
Copyright: Graham Slaughter, CTVNews.ca
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