Imagine a future where people with type 1 diabetes (T1D) won’t need to take insulin for months, possibly years, at a time thanks to a small implant.
Why it matters
Managing T1D and keeping blood glucose within a safe range is a complicated, time-consuming task. Everyone living with the disease experiences high- and low-blood-sugar episodes, because insulin therapy is an imperfect science.
Encapsulated beta cell replacement therapies could be a game changer. They could liberate people with T1D from the burdens of managing their disease all day, every day. These therapies involve wrapping insulin-producing islet cells in a protective barrier before implanting them into the body. The barrier shields the cells from being destroyed by an attack from the immune system, but the cells are still able to sense changes in blood-sugar levels and release insulin and other required hormones whenever they’re needed.
Our pioneering research
Successful encapsulated beta cell replacement therapies will bring the same benefits as islet cell transplantation—a treatment that, not long ago, created tremendous excitement in the T1D community. Research has shown that many recipients of these transplants can achieve normalized blood-glucose control for up to five years or longer. But widespread use of islet transplants is not possible for two reasons: not enough islets are available; and transplant recipients must take powerful drugs to prevent the immune system from destroying the transplanted cells. Encapsulated beta cell replacement therapies have the potential to overcome both obstacles.
Beta cells are the islet cells responsible for producing insulin. JDRF has been a driving force behind beta cell replacement research that could make beta cell replacement a widely available option for people with T1D. To date, our efforts have resulted in techniques for scaling up production of implantable cells that can become islets, the design of beta cell replacement materials that show promise in blocking an immune system attack and the launch of human clinical trials to test the safety and efficacy of these therapies.
We're not just imagining a world without T1D. We're making it happen.
New JDRF T1D Fund Makes Early Investment in Cell Replacement Start-Up
A company founded to commercialize the stem cell-derived islet work of Doug Melton, Ph.D., a longtime recipient of JDRF support, receives one of the first investments from the JDRF T1D Fund. The investment will help advance Semma’s beta cell replacement technology to clinical testing and, ultimately, to market.Read More
Identifying a Cause of Immune-Mediated Response to Implant Devices
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Boston Children’s Hospital—funded by JDRF and The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust—identify a primary trigger of local immune reaction and scarring around medical implants. Developing methods to improve biomaterial biocompatibility and protect implants from rejection by the immune system is a primary hurdle for beta cell replacement therapies.Read More
Coating Hides Cell Implant Devices from Immune Attack
Researchers brought together by the JDRF Encapsulation Consortium develop a coating for implants that hides them from white blood cells that engulf and destroy foreign bodies. Insulin-producing cells encapsulated in devices protected by the coating were able to keep blood-glucose levels in diabetic mice within recommended range for six months.Read More
Novel Beta Cell Replacement Vehicle Enables Insulin Independence
JDRF-supported researchers at the University of Miami’s Diabetes Research Institute implant the first volunteer in a pilot trial with an advanced beta cell replacement system called the BioHub. Made up of a gel that can be seeded with islets and implanted in abdominal tissue, the BioHub enabled one trial participant to become insulin independent for an extended periodMore
Encapsulated beta cell replacement therapy moves to clinical trials
In 2014, clinical trials began for two novel encapsulated beta cell replacement therapies.Read more
Working toward an unlimited cell supply
JDRF Encapsulation Consortium launched
In 2013, JDRF organized the Encapsulation Consortium, and is now convening scientists and researchers from more than 25 institutions to accelerate beta cell replacement technology.Read more
Protein discovered that could enhance protective shield
Researchers in 2012 demonstrated that a protein used by tumor cells to evade the immune response could be used to thwart immune resistance to encapsulated beta cells in devices.Read more
Meet the experts leading beta cell replacement research.
Esther Latres, Ph.D.
Esther Latres is associate director of translational development at JDRF. She focuses on the translation of scientific discoveries into novel therapies for improving metabolic control and restoring beta cell function.
Esther Latres, Ph.D.
Sanjoy Dutta, Ph.D.
Sanjoy Dutta is associate vice president, translational development for JDRF, where he focuses on managing and developing glucose control research.
Sanjoy Dutta, Ph.D.
Explore more life-changing research
Find out why each of these research areas is part of the plan for a world without T1D.