"This is very encouraging news for people with type 1 diabetes who look forward to a future without this serious condition," said Donna Lillie, Vice President, Research and Professional Education, Canadian Diabetes Association. "Dr. Behie's all-Canadian team has brought us one more step towards potentially securing a large supply of insulin-producing pancreatic cells for transplantation into individuals with type 1 diabetes."
Scientists at the University of Alberta were the first to successfully transplant islet cells into people with diabetes in 2000, freeing them from insulin injections. Follow-up studies have shown that the transplanted cells continued to function in many of these so-called Edmonton Protocol patients for up to five years. However, a significant bottleneck to treating large numbers of people with type 1 diabetes using this approach is that it takes pancreas cells from as many as three donor cadavers to supply enough for one patient transplant.
"Injecting islet cells into people with diabetes has gotten people off insulin. The problem is there aren't enough cells available to treat everyone," Behie said. "If we can expand cell populations in our bioreactors, we'll be able to supply everyone who needs them and dramatically improve their quality of life."
About 10 per cent of Edmonton Protocol transplant recipients have been able to stay off insulin after five years, and patients are required to take anti-rejection drugs after receiving the new cells. By producing a reliable supply of cells, Behie sa
Contact: Grady Semmens
University of Calgary