Something exciting hit the DOC (Diabetic Online Community) this week. The news is that ViaCyte (heavily backed by JDRF) had filed an IND (Investigative New Drug) application with the FDA to begin clinical trials for a new encapsulated cell replacement therapy system for type 1 diabetics.
What does that mean in layman’s terms?
Type 1 diabetics do not have the cells in their bodies that produce insulin (or they just don’t work), because their immune system has destroyed them. Transplanting these cells into a T1D doesn’t really work – the immune system just attacks the new cells, and you’re back to square one. Immunosuppressants are toxic, dangerous and not fun, and even on those, the most successful transplants may only work for up to 10 years, optimistically.
This new encapsulation study involves a transplant of the cells, encased in a protective barrier to protect the cells from the immune system. This means immunosuppressant drugs would not be needed, increasing the quality of life for the transplant recipient.
It’s HUGE news. Many, many years of research have gone into this and the possibility of VC-01 (the current working name for this therapy) becoming a reality as a form of treatment for T1’s in the foreseeable future… how exciting!
I’m trying not to get my hopes up, though. They’re currently working to be approved for trials – it’s nowhere near ready to “hit the shelves” per sé. It could completely flop. Who knows. But it’s progress, a possible speck of light at the end of the tunnel.
It isn’t a cure, but it’s moving from crutches to a prosthetic. It has the potential to bring a level of normalcy back to the lives of T1’s.