Beta Cell Replacement

You can skip counting carbs for months at a time

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.

JDRF scientists

Meet the experts leading beta cell replacement research.

  • Esther Latres, Ph.D.

    Esther Latres, Ph.D.

    Esther Latres is associate director of research at JDRF. She focuses on the translation of scientific discoveries into novel therapies for improving glucose control and beta cell function.

    Esther Latres, Ph.D.

  • Sanjoy Dutta, Ph.D.

    Sanjoy Dutta, Ph.D.

    Sanjoy Dutta is associate vice president, research, for JDRF, where he focuses on managing and developing ways we can treat T1D.

    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.