Apr 2015

Dr. James Shapiro

A whole new way to treat diabetes?

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Canadian researchers are getting closer to what could become a new treatment option for type 1 diabetes.

Dr. James Shapiro, Director of the Clinical Islet Transplant Program at the University of Alberta, has recently published a study in Nature Biotechnology describing a novel way of transplanting islet cells from a donor’s pancreas underneath the patient’s skin.

In 1990s, Dr. Shapiro, one of the world’s top insulin experts, co-developed the Edmonton Protocol to treat diabetes through transplantation of islet cells into the patient’s liver. Although the technique offered hope at first, Dr. Shapiro realized the liver wasn’t the ideal site for transplantation as most of the cells were quickly destroyed.

“Until now it has been nearly impossible for transplanted cells to function reliably when placed beneath the skin,” says Dr. Shapiro in a University of Alberta article published this week. “In these studies, we have harnessed the body’s natural ability to respond to a foreign body by growing new enriching blood vessels. By controlling this reaction, we have successfully and reliably reversed diabetes in our preclinical models.”

The new approach is an evolution of the Protocol, and according to Dr. Shapiro it could soon become a new standard for treatment—not only in diabetes, but in other diseases as well.

“For any area of regenerative medicine that requires replacing old cells with new — this opens up an incredible future possibility for successful engraftment beneath the skin.” says Dr. Shapiro.

Dr. Shapiro is also involved in other studies for treatment of type 1 diabetes. He is a scientific advisor for ViaCyte, the American company that is conducting a new clinical trial for diabetes with one or more sites to be launched in Canada. Click here to read more about it.

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