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New Type 1 diabetes treatment cuts insulin shots

The University of Aberdeen and a not-for-profit London-based centre have developed a technology that eliminates the need to administer insulin shots to Type 1 diabetes patients by transplanting laboratory-grown islets that produce insulin.

world Updated: May 19, 2016 18:59 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Type 1 diabetes

The Islexa technology works by reprogramming donated pancreatic tissue into fully functional islets that will significantly increase the number of patients who can receive the treatment. (Shutterstock)

The University of Aberdeen and a not-for-profit London-based centre have developed a technology that eliminates the need to administer insulin shots to Type 1 diabetes patients by transplanting laboratory-grown islets that produce insulin.

Callled Islexa, the technology holds hope for millions of Type 1 patients across the world, including in India, which has one of the largest diabetes-afflicted populations. The technology is a collaboration between the university and the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult (CGT).

A CGT spokesperson told Hindustan Times: “The technology is still in the pre-clinical stage and we are aiming for the first in man studies in the next few years here in the UK. Once the clinical trials have been completed and the product has gained market approval, we see no reason for the treatment to not be globally available.”

The Islexa technology works by reprogramming donated pancreatic tissue into fully functional islets that will significantly increase the number of patients who can receive the treatment.

Type 1 diabetes is normally treated by administering insulin injections. An islet transplant can give patients effective, long-term glucose control without the need of insulin administration. 

CGT CEO Keith Thompson said: “The collaboration has already delivered promising results and the formation of Islexa will accelerate the development of these lab grown islets and ultimately get this potential treatment to thousands of patients.”

Kevin Docherty of the University of Aberdeen said the technology is based on converting pancreatic tissue into functional islets. “This has an advantage over the use of stem cells as source material, since at the moment they generate only the insulin-producing beta cells,” he said.

“Islets are organoids that produce multiple hormones, including insulin, and donated islets are already effectively treating severe cases of Type 1 diabetes. Having a hugely expanded supply of lab grown islets will enable us to significantly extend this established clinical treatment.” 

John Casey, consultant transplant surgeon at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, said: “Islet transplantation can transform the lives of patients with Type I diabetes, and in some cases can result in long-term freedom from insulin injections with excellent glucose control.

“This exciting collaboration between the Scottish Islet Programme, world leading scientists and the UK life sciences industry will allow us to rapidly develop the technology and treat more patients, more effectively.”