An announcement yesterday by researchers at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio was met with significant fanfare in the press. In a paper published in Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, the researchers cured T1D in mice by reprogramming cells to produce insulin.
The insulin-producing cells are developed from healthy, thriving cells already existing in the pancreas of T1D mice. In theory, because the cells are already accepted by the body, they may not be subject to the T1D autoimmune attack. These cells are reprogrammed to produce insulin by the introduction of a virus directly into the pancreas. Once introduced, the virus directly alters the cells enabling them to produce insulin.
A SIGNIFICANT BREAKTHROUGH?
On net, these results are encouraging, but more progress is needed before it can be called a breakthrough for people living with T1D. Researchers have cured T1D in mice a number of times in the past, but to date, this research has not translated to humans. Proof of success in humans, in our view, is the principle hurdle to cross before any research should be described as a true breakthrough and potential cure for people living with T1D.
A long road of testing remains before the project enters human trials and, ultimately, can become commercially available. According to project researchers, human trials are at least three years away. The immediate next steps involve testing in pigs and/or primates before moving into human testing. After that, it generally takes more than a decade for a strong project to progress all the way from the first stage of human trials to pre-market approval.
That said, this is a promising project and we hope that this project receives the resources needed to move it into human trials as quickly as possible.