Four people are part of a human trial of encapsulation therapy, a promising treatment to reverse Type 1 diabetes using stem cells. Dr. Eugene Brandon, director of strategic relations at ViaCyte Inc., told an audience at the JDRF TypeOneNation Summit in Maryland on Saturday, that if the human trials are successful, the treatment could be available by 2020. JDRF helped finance the research.
The San Diego company develops stem cells — which are the building blocks of all the cells in a human body — until just before they become the beta cells that regulate glucose and produce insulin. The cells are placed inside a flat capsule, nicknamed a “tea bag,” a few inches long and looks like a wide tongue depressor.
Ordinarily, the body’s immune system would attack and destroy the new cells. But the capsule keeps the body’s defenses at bay while allowing blood to pass through and with it, insulin. It has the potential to give diabetics a normal life without finger pricks or watching the carbohydrates in their meals.
In mouse studies, the capsules lasted as long as the mice were alive, about a year, Brandon said. Their “inclination,” he said, is that it will likely need to be replaced in humans.
Here’s Brandon describing their work in a 2013 video: