ViaCyte wins kudos for ESC program to treat diabetes

San Diego-based start-up ViaCyte has earned some high marks from scientists for its animal studies on a new embryonic stem cell therapy for Type 1 diabetes. Researchers demonstrated in preclinical work that insulin-producing cells implanted in rodents effectively regulated levels of blood sugar. And they say that their approach has promise for humans in upcoming clinical trials.

"It's still a long road toward a treatment for diabetes, but in my mind they have made astonishing progress," Joslin Diabetes Center's Gordon Weir tells MIT Technology Review. Weir adds that humans will pose tougher challenges to ViaCyte, which will have to manage a tougher immune system and far more complex biology.

ViaCyte, formerly known as Novocell, uses its own special recipe to make immature pancreatic cells that can manufacture insulin. But it has yet to make fully differentiated cells in the lab, a crucial step needed to avoid the risk of cancer. Instead, it placed the cells in a special membrane that could protect it from the immune system.

- here's the report from MIT Technology Review