Giving people insulin-producing cells that are protected from immune attack
Giving new cells to people with type 1 is something we can already do. You can read about islet and pancreas transplantation here.
So why are we still researching it?
Unfortunately there are problems with the process. Transplants require people to take drugs for the rest of their lives to stop their bodies from rejecting the new cells. These drugs are in themselves risky, and even with them, people are not insulin free forever. This means that for most people with type 1, the risks of a transplant vastly outweigh the benefits. Another problem is that there are not enough organ donors to meet the needs of the people who currently need a pancreas or islet transplant.
So our cure research is helping to develop new sources of cells that could be used for transplantation – and to develop new ways of protecting the new cells from rejection, and autoimmune destruction. We call this ‘encapsulation’. Encapsulation means putting the precious beta cells in a protective coating before putting them into the body.