Type 1 diabetes was once considered a death sentence. However, ViaCyte, a San Diego biotech, claims that two tests released this week demonstrate the company is coming closer to a “functional cure” for the disease. The two papers, which were released on Thursday, are based on a preliminary clinical experiment in which the company implanted small devices beneath the skin of type 1 diabetics.
These devices were stuffed with pancreatic cells, which researchers discovered could differentiate into cell types that naturally keep blood sugar levels from falling too low or rising too quickly. This strategy, called as cell replacement therapy, is hoped to allow type 1 diabetics to stop using needles, syringes, and pumps to constantly monitor their blood sugar levels.
The new research comes just a month after Vertex, a Massachusetts biotech firm, claimed that it had made progress toward a type 1 diabetes cell-based therapy. According to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the condition affects 1.6 million people in the United States. Among other symptoms, type 1 diabetics experience continual weariness, weight loss, and increased thirst and urination.