The cure for type 1 diabetes could arrive soon. Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson has joined forces with biotech company ViaCyte to accelerate development of the first stem cell treatment that has proven to be the most effective in eliminating the need for regular insulin injections and blood sugar tests.
After a team of scientists were able to halt type 1 diabetes in mice for six months by injecting insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells generated in the laboratory from human embryonic stem cells, the remarkable treatment is now been replicated on a small number of diabetic patients. If the experiment and the medicine proves as effective as it has on the animals, there could a be a cure for the life-threatening hormonal disorder, which would end the regular and painful insulin injections as well as the need for frequent blood sugar tests.
ViaCyte and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen BetaLogics group announced they have agreed to combine their knowledge and hundreds of patents on their research under ViaCyte, a longtime J&J partner focused on regenerative medicine, reported MSN. Speaking about the breakthrough and its implications, Dr. Tom Donner, director of the diabetes center at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine said the following.
“This one is potentially the real deal. It’s like making a new pancreas that makes all the hormones needed to control blood sugar. If the therapy can lead to normal insulin levels, it’s going to prevent millions of diabetics from getting dangerous complications.”
He was referring to the therapy, which involves coaxing embryonic stem cells into insulin-producing cells. These cells are then inserted in a capsule that is carefully planted just below the skin. The capsule protects the cells from the patient’s own immune system. Researchers have always fought a losing battle with the immune system as it would attack any treatment, considering the same as invaders, reported Fox News. People suffering from type 1 diabetes suffer from a similar condition within their pancreas, where the immune system keeps destroying insulin-producing beta cells, which would have otherwise managed the sugar in the body and converted it into much-needed energy.
The flat capsules which contained the insulin-producing cells derived from embryonic stem cells were inserted in 12 test subjects suffering from Type 1 diabetes about a year ago. The tests were so promising; it has motivated the group to move onto additional testing on more human subjects as well as to continue to monitor the initial group for any safety or adverse reactions to the implanted capsule, reported the Examiner.
The cure for type 1 diabetes might take two more years even if everything goes according to plan and the tests continue to remain positive. This is because the researchers intend to closely monitor the test subjects to check whether they experience any negative consequences from the insulin-containing capsule.
While there are multiple approaches being tested, this potential cure for diabetes is the first to be tested in patients, claimed ViaCyte Biotechnology Company. On the other hand, Johnson & Johnson has been relentlessly trying to cure the lifestyle disease for the past 13 years. The company has been conducting parallel research with ViaCyte through financial investments.
Currently, there is no known long term cure for diabetes, according to modern science. Patients don’t have much choice, other than to painfully monitor their blood sugar levels and strictly control their diet. Though diabetes can be managed well, it can’t be cured completely. While traditional remedies and regular exercise does help, modern medicine offers insulin injections. Diabetes often causes serious complications in the human body, including death.
With more than 29 million Americans suffering from diabetes, including 1.25 million with type 1 diabetes, the cure for the disease couldn’t come sooner.
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