A group of Canadian academics working in tandem with a J&J research team have claimed a breakthrough success, reversing diabetes in mice through human stem cell transplants.
Timothy Kieffer, a scientist at the University of British Columbia, says the stem cell strategy was able to jumpstart the "feedback cycle" in diabetic mice, getting them to generate insulin as needed, so it fluctuated as blood glucose changed. The mice were slowly weaned off insulin after the stem cell transplants. The disease reversal stuck, even when the mice were fed large quantities of sugar. And investigators say they're laying the foundation for the first round of human studies, looking for a way to insure that an immune response doesn't KO the procedure in humans.
"We are very excited by these findings, but additional research is needed before this approach can be tested clinically in humans," says Kieffer, a member of UBC's Life Sciences Institute. "The studies were performed in diabetic mice that lacked a properly functioning immune system that would otherwise have rejected the cells. We now need to identify a suitable way of protecting the cells from immune attack so that the transplant can ultimately be performed in the absence of any immunosuppression."
J&J's ($JNJ) BetaLogics division was involved in the project, which drew financial support from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Stem Cell Network of Canada, Stem Cell Technologies of Vancouver, the JDRF and the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research.