Encapsulated stem cells halt type 1 diabetes in mice for six months

Posted on 25 January 2016

Harvard hero Dr Doug Melton, working on a project led by Dr Daniel Anderson and Dr Robert Langer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has today shown encapsulated human islet (insulin-producing) cells transplanted into mice can withstand the autoimmune attack in type 1 diabetes, effectively halting the condition for up to six months.

Doug Melton
Doug Melton

The findings, reported in Nature Medicine and Nature Biotechnology detailed results from ongoing studies to develop an encapsulated islet cell therapy for treatment of type 1 diabetes.

In 2014, Melton revealed as part of JDRF-funded research at Harvard that we could for the first time create massive numbers of insulin-producing cells from stem cells.

Encapsulated islet cell therapies are created by wrapping pancreatic cells in a protective barrier before implanting them into the body. Once implanted, the barrier shields the cells from an immune system attack, and the cells are able to sense changing blood-glucose levels and produce insulin and other required hormones as needed. The study released today revealed we can now protectively encapsulate cells produced this way within mice for a period as long as six months.

Sarah Johnson, UK Director of Policy and Communication at JDRF said: “We are really pleased our continued support of Dr Melton’s research is showing these results and an early indication that encapsulation could be a new method of treating type 1 diabetes in the future.

“It’s significant to see a study of this length return such promising results. If this study can be replicated in humans then one day we could potentially free people with type 1 diabetes from a life of insulin injections.”

Inspired by Harvard hero Dr Doug Melton?

Find out more about other exciting JDRF-funded research projects. Click the link below.

Find out more