Today, a study published in Nature Biotechnology outlined a “recipe” for creation of insulin-producing cells from embryonic stem cells. This finding has the potential to be life changing for those managing type 1 diabetes – with potential to eliminate the need for insulin injections in the future. This study is the result of collaborative work between BetaLogics Venture, an internal venture within Janssen Research & Development, LLC, and the University of British Columbia (UBC).
While transplantation of pancreatic islet cells has been shown to be an effective alternative to insulin for type 1 diabetes patients, the approach is limited by the availability of these cells, which are currently obtained through organ donation. With the diabetes epidemic continuing to grow, and 1.5 million patients in the United States alone suffering from type 1 diabetes, there is a great need for effective treatments that are able to treat a large patient population.
How’d we get to these findings? Good question. Our internal BetaLogics Venture team combed the literature describing cell signaling pathways and tested numerous reagents that turn certain pathways on or off. As a result, they developed a seven step process for making cells that produce insulin, which improved upon previous attempts to develop these cells. If you are interested in more scientific details, the full paper can be found here. The cells were then sent to UBC to be tested in vitro (cell culture tests) and in vivo (mouse model). After transplantation into diabetic mice, the cells reversed high blood sugar in six weeks, four times faster than immature cells.
The ability to generate an unlimited supply of islet cells could potentially transform the way type 1 diabetes is treated today, as it could enable insulin injections to be eliminated altogether. In addition, these cells could serve as a powerful screening tool to aid in identifying novel pathways in development of type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
We are proud to publish this work in Nature Biotechnology, a highly prestigious journal, and are encouraged by these results.