A new implant that has been developed in the US is being described as a “functional cure” for type 1 diabetes. Viacyte, which is based in San Diego, has developed the implant to help replace the cells that are attacked by the body in those who suffer from the condition.
Speaking to New Scientist, Paul Laikind, from the company, said that it’s not a true cure, but that it could make a big difference to those who have to manage the condition if their trial is successful.
“It’s not truly a cure because we wouldn’t address the autoimmune cause of the disease, but we would be replacing the missing cells,” he explained.
Two people in the US now have the implant, with a third person set to receive it in the near future. Researchers have put embryonic stem cells in the implant, which then mature once it’s inserted into the body.
These cells are designed to develop into islet cells – the type of cells that are attacked by the body’s immune system in those who suffer from diabetes. By replacing the islet cells, the body’s natural ability to monitor blood sugar levels and release insulin as required should be restored.
While this new treatment would mean that those with type 1 diabetes would no longer need to closely monitor their blood sugar levels or inject insulin, they would need to take immunosuppressive drugs to prevent their body from attacking the new cells.
Type 1 diabetes is most commonly diagnosed in children or adults under the age of 40. Diabetes UK recently reported on a study which found that children who were born between 39 and 41 weeks were less likely to develop the condition than those born earlier or later in a pregnancy.
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