Diabetes

29
Nov 2016
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Stem Cell Network’s $9 million awards will advance research into new treatments

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Unveiling its 2016 funding awards last week, the Stem Cell Network announced support for six clinical research trials for new cell-based treatments.…

Unveiling its 2016 funding awards last week, the Stem Cell Network announced support for six clinical research trials for new cell-based treatments.

“The regenerative medicine research sector is fueled by stem cells and today it is at a tipping point, with the potential to see breakthroughs in our generation,” said Dr. Michael Rudnicki, Scientific Director of the Stem Cell Network.

One of the big winners was Dr. Lauralyn McIntyre, a researcher/clinician at The Ottawa Hospital and a professor at the University of Ottawa.  Her team receives $1 million of the $9 million in announced funding to conduct a cross-Canada Phase 2 clinical trial of mesenchymal stem cell therapy for septic shock.  We profiled her work on the deadly condition here

Her colleague at The Ottawa Hospital, Dr. Duncan Stewart, will use his $999,546 award to advance his work testing enhanced angiogenic cell therapy for acute heart attacks.  Check out Dr. Stewart’s Q&A here.

As well, Dr. Sandra Cohen at the Hôpital Maisonneuve Rosemont in Montreal will investigate ways to improve the expansion of cord blood hematopoietic stem cells via her $999,968 award.

Two diabetes trials were also funded: Dr. Timothy Kieffer of the University of British Columbia gets $500,000 to test a stem cell therapy for insulin replacement, while Dr. James Shapiro of the University of Alberta receives almost the same amount for a clinical trial to solve the “supply and survival problem” in using stem cell transplants.  Both Dr. Kieffer and Shapiro also receive $500,000 in funding through the Network’s Disease Team Program.

In all, 31 projects from across Canada will receive funding to help move research from lab bench to bedside in areas such as brain injury, kidney disease and breast cancer.

Making the announcement, Science Minister Kirsty Duncan said the investment will help translate discoveries into better health and economic growth for Canadians.  It was made possible with the announcement of a two-year, $12-million extension of the Stem Cell Network in the March federal budget.

In a news release, Dr. Stewart said the funding “brings us a big step closer to figuring out how to harness the incredible potential of stem cells to treat devastating diseases.”

 

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03
Nov 2015
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(Lisa Willemse photo for OIRM)
Stem cell co-discover Jim Till and award winner Tim Keiffer

(Lisa Willemse photo for OIRM) Stem cell co-discover Jim Till and award winner Tim Keiffer

On the verge of new treatments that will change lives

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We are at a crucial moment in time for stem cell research and development in Canada.

For almost two decades the field of stem cells and regenerative medicine “has been long on promise, short on product,” according to a feature article in the current issue Biotechnology Focus magazine.…

We are at a crucial moment in time for stem cell research and development in Canada.

For almost two decades the field of stem cells and regenerative medicine “has been long on promise, short on product,” according to a feature article in the current issue Biotechnology Focus magazine.

But that is changing quickly, the article points out.  In clinical trials underway across Canada, researchers are using stem cells to treat diabetes, heart attacks, osteoarthritis and spinal cord injury to name just a few. There is a growing feeling that the field is on the verge of delivering new treatments that will change the lives of patients suffering from chronic, debilitating diseases.

That sentiment was also on display at last week’s Till & McCulloch Meetings in Toronto. The Canadian Stem Cell Foundation is a partner  with the retiring Stem Cell Network, the Canadian Centre for Regenerative Medicine and the Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine, who co-host the premier stem cell event in Canada. It brings together some 400 scientists, clinicians and industry leaders to share insights into how to move the field forward.

Chosen as the 2015 Till & McCulloch Award Winner, Dr. Timothy Kieffer of the University of British Columbia gave the keynote lecture at the closing session and shared his optimism at the progress his lab and others are making towards defeating diabetes.

Drawing from a paper published in Nature Biotechnology last year, he described how his team reversed diabetes in mice using insulin-producing cells derived from human stem cells.  Looking forward to moving his work into clinical trials, Dr. Kieffer says it’s just a matter of time before stem cells provide the needed source of cells to replace insulin injections, sparing millions of diabetics of the need for needles and rigorously monitoring their blood sugar levels several times a day.  He predicts this will happen within 10 years.

In short, good things are happening. Obstacles are being overcome. Cures are on their way. The horizon is getting closer and we can see the possibilities more clearly now.

 

 

 

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01
Oct 2015
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George Canyon, left, and David Prowten with Encaptra device

George Canyon, left, and David Prowten with Encaptra device

Canada AM highlights ‘closest thing to diabetes cure’

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This morning on Canada AM, country music star George Canyon and David Prowten, president of Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) talked about their great hopes for a new stem cell device that could free diabetics from daily insulin injections. 

This morning on Canada AM, country music star George Canyon and David Prowten, president of Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) talked about their great hopes for a new stem cell device that could free diabetics from daily insulin injections. 

Mr. Canyon, who has had type 1 diabetes since age 14, called the  device “the closest thing to a cure that I have ever seen … This is going to change the lives of 300,000 type 1 diabetics in Canada.”

Mr. Prowten, holding up the four-centimetre-long device, described it as “a big step forward.”

The Encaptra device, developed by a California-based biotechnology company called ViaCyte Inc. with help from the University of Alberta’s Dr. James Shapiro, has been featured in this space before.

Dr. Shapiro received Health Canada’s approval earlier this year to conduct a Phase1/2 clinical trial of the  stem cell-derived islet replacement treatment for diabetes.  It involves inserting the device, which is loaded with pancreatic progenitor cells, under the patient’s skin where new blood vessels grow around it and the body’s immune system doesn’t try to destroy it, enabling regulation of blood glucose levels. The Edmonton-based trial, supported by Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions and JDRF, follows one ViaCyte began last year in San Diego.

According to the Canada AM report, the first patient has now received the device. The early stage testing will be to see if the device is safe and is well tolerated. Within a year to 18 months scientists should learn if it actually works.  If it does,

“This could give me 10 to 12 months at a time of not really having diabetes, being able to go a day without testing, and taking insulin, Mr. Canyon said. “This is Disney World, right here.”

The report shows how close Canadian stem cell researchers are to delivering bold new therapies for a number of life-threatening conditions including, heart disease, cancer and Multiple Sclerosis. And it provides one more reason for telling politicians who are currently seeking your vote that you support the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy & Action Plan to bring more clinical trials to Canada. Take a minute to show your support here.

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15
Sep 2015
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Take the 2-minute test for Type 2 diabetes

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Are you at risk of having pre-diabetes or Type 2 diabetes?

According to the Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA), Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body can’t properly process insulin (called insulin insensitivity) or does not make enough insulin so that sugar builds up in the blood instead of being used as energy.…

Are you at risk of having pre-diabetes or Type 2 diabetes?

According to the Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA), Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body can’t properly process insulin (called insulin insensitivity) or does not make enough insulin so that sugar builds up in the blood instead of being used as energy. About 90% of people with diabetes have Type 2. It is more typical in adults, but children can be affected too.

The CDA has developed an online quiz for Canadians to see if they are at risk. Currently more than 9 million people in this country either have the disease or are in pre-diabetes. You can find out in just two minutes.  Click here to take the test.

Canada is a global leader in diabetes research. Almost 100 years ago, Frederick Banting and Charles Best discovered insulin and gave diabetics around the world the chance to live full lives. Now, Canadian stem cell researchers are working on ways to make those daily insulin injections a thing of the past via stem cell transplants.  The Canadian Stem Cell Strategy & Action Plan will help make it happen.  Click here to tell your federal candidates that you support the Action Plan — and that they should, too.

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24
Apr 2015
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Dr. James Shapiro

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.…

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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12
Jan 2015
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Diabetes trial cleared by Health Canada

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Recently, we blogged about the first U.S. patient successfully implanted with a device to treat type 1 diabetes.

Good news is that the VC-01 device will soon be tested on Canadian patients.…

Recently, we blogged about the first U.S. patient successfully implanted with a device to treat type 1 diabetes.

Good news is that the VC-01 device will soon be tested on Canadian patients. After the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of the testing in August 2014, Health Canada has now cleared the beginning of the Phase 1/2 clinical trial of the VC-01 in Canada.

The device, developed by the American company ViaCyte, is about about half the size of a credit card and can be implanted under the skin from where its progenitor cells secrete insulin whenever blood sugar levels get too high, restoring glycemic harmony. It is being tested at the University of California, San Diego Health System for its safety, tolerability and efficacy in patients with type 1 diabetes who have minimal to no insulin-producing beta cell function.

“The first cohort of patients in this two-cohort dose escalation study of the VC-01 product candidate is currently being assessed at a single site in the United States. Health Canada’s approval represents further validation of the trial and allows us to expand internationally to one or more sites in Canada.” Dr. Paul Laikind, President and CEO of ViaCyte said in the press release.

The location and enrollment start date of the Canadian trial site are yet to be released, but there is already a strong connection between Canada and ViaCyte. Edmonton’s Dr. James Shapiro, Director of the Clinical Islet Transplant Program at the University of Alberta, is a scientific advisor with ViaCyte. In 1990s, Dr. Shapiro co-developed the Edmonton Protocol, a procedure for implementing pancreatic islets for the treatment of type 1 diabetes.

Although the VC-01 clinical trial is in its early stages and it is unsure whether it will become a safe and efficient treatment option for diabetes, it represents an important step towards a cure for the disease.

Learn here how up to 10 treatments for chronic diseases will be developed over the next 10 years thanks to the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy & Action Plan.

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03
Nov 2014
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First patient gets cell-based treatment for diabetes

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In a recent blog post, we reported a prediction by the University of British Columbia’s Dr. Tim Kieffer that it is “only a matter of time” before stem cells provide the needed source of cells to replace insulin injections.…

CIRM Screen Capture

In a recent blog post, we reported a prediction by the University of British Columbia’s Dr. Tim Kieffer that it is “only a matter of time” before stem cells provide the needed source of cells to replace insulin injections. He’s confident this will occur within 10 years.

One way it could happen is now being tested in a clinical trial at the University of California, San Diego Health System, where an American company called ViaCyte has successfully implanted its first patient with a device to treat type 1 diabetes.  Not only does ViaCyte have a Canadian connection, the exciting news from California underscores the importance of Canada implementing the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy & Action Plan.

The California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), which has supported ViaCyte in its work, blogged about the VC-01, describing it as “about the length and thickness of a credit card but only half as wide.” Implanted under the skin, the device’s progenitor cells secrete insulin whenever they detect that blood sugar is high, restoring glycemic harmony. While it can move out the insulin as needed, the device stops the immune system from moving in and destroying the insulin-producing cells.

These are, of course, early days: the primary object of the trial is to see if the device is safe, if patients can tolerate it with no adverse effects. And if they can, does it, in fact, treat their diabetes?

That said, CIRM’s leaders are understandably chuffed. The news “that this is now truly out of the lab and being tested in patients is an important step in a long road to showing that it works in patients.”  They urge cautious optimism: “The people at ViaCyte, who have been working hard on this project for many years, know that they still have a long way to go but for today at least, this step probably feels a little bit more like a skip for joy.”

What’s the Canadian connection? ViaCyte has one of the world’s top insulin experts as a scientific advisor: Dr. James Shapiro, Director of the Clinical Islet Transplant Program at the University of Alberta. In the 1990s, Dr. Shapiro co-developed the Edmonton Protocol, a procedure for implementing pancreatic islets for the treatment of type 1 diabetes.

Canada has been a leader in diabetes research since the early 1920s, when Drs. Frederick Banting and Charles Best discovered insulin. The more recent work done by Dr. Shapiro and the University of Alberta team, and stem cell experts like Dr. Kieffer and the University of Toronto’s Dr. Derek van der Kooy, who first isolated pancreatic stem cells, has kept Canada at the forefront.

But, as Dr. Alan Bernstein told the Globe and Mail last week at the launch of the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy & Action Plan, “the rest of the world is not standing still.”

California has invested $3 billion in stem cell R&D. The CIRM/ViaCyte news is proof the investment is  yielding significant dividends.

“We risk slowing down our investment while the rest of the world is speeding up, so relatively we will fall further and further behind,” Dr. Bernstein, Chair of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation,  told the Globe. “This sort of research and the clinical trials are both long-term [prospects]. They need sustained investment and they are expensive.”

The Strategy & Action Plan plots a course for Canada to lead the way in delivering up to 10 new treatments for diseases to the clinic within 10 years that could transform the health care landscape. Find out more about the Strategy here.

 

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02
Oct 2014
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Dr. Timothy Kieffer

Dr. Timothy Kieffer

A step closer to curing diabetes

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The news that Dr. Timothy Kieffer’s team at the University of British Columbia, in collaboration with New Jersey based BetaLogics, has found a faster way to create insulin-producing cells is the latest example of how Canada has been a world leader in fighting type 1 diabetes.…

The news that Dr. Timothy Kieffer’s team at the University of British Columbia, in collaboration with New Jersey based BetaLogics, has found a faster way to create insulin-producing cells is the latest example of how Canada has been a world leader in fighting type 1 diabetes.

It was Canadian Sir Frederick Banting, working with medical student Charles Best, who discovered insulin in 1922 — a breakthrough that has rescued the lives of millions of diabetics around the world.  In the late 1990s, a team of researchers and doctors at the University of Alberta developed the Edmonton Protocol, a procedure for implanting pancreatic islets to treat patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus. However, widespread adoption of the protocol has been limited by the shortage of donor tissue — it can take as many as three donated pancreases for each patient.  Also, recipients need to take strong immunosuppressive drugs to prevent rejection of the transplanted cells.

What Dr. Kieffer and his collaborators have come up with — a protocol to turn stem cells into reliable, insulin-producing cells in about six weeks, far quicker than the four months it took using previous methods — represents a significant advance.  It brings scientists a step closer to being able to produce an unlimited supply of insulin-producing cells to treat this devastating disease that affects more than 2 million Canadians and almost 400 million people worldwide.

According to a UBC media release, the protocol transforms stem cells into insulin-secreting pancreatic cells, called S7 cells, via a cell-culture method. The conversion is completed after the cells are transplanted into a host. Tested on mice, the transplanted cells were successful in rapidly reversing diabetes.

We asked Dr. Kieffer to answer a few questions about the discovery, the results of which have been published in Nature Biotechnology, which you can read here. Here’s what he had to say:

Question: What’s the key advance here – that you can now make insulin producing cells much more quickly or that you can reverse diabetes so effectively?

Answer: The key advance with our work is the development of culture conditions to extend the maturation of the cells well beyond the pancreatic progenitor stage that we and others have previously achieved.  The cells have many characteristics of mature insulin producing beta-cells at the time we transplant them, and thus are able reverse diabetes in about one-quarter the time needed with pancreatic progenitor cells, and with only one-quarter of the cell dose.

Question:  You developed the protocol for these S7 cells with mice. How far away are you from human trials?

Answer: The protocol for cultivating the cells was developed with humans in mind, not mice.  Therefore, human cells and scalable methods for cell manufacturing were used.  Testing the cells in mice with diabetes represents an important and necessary step on the path to clinical trials.  It will be up to regulatory agencies such as Health Canada to determine what other studies are required before clinical testing can begin.  In this regard it is very encouraging that the FDA recently approved the clinical testing in patients with type 1 diabetes of pancreatic precursor cells produced by ViaCyte.

Question:  Do you see a day in the next 10 years when this kind of treatment replaces daily insulin injections?

Answer: I am quite enthusiastic for the potential of a stem cell based therapy for diabetes.  The clinical path has been proven with islet transplantation — only a few teaspoons of insulin producing cells (cadaveric islets) are infused into the patients and with this, effective glucose control can be re-established.  It is only a matter of time before stem cells provide the needed source of cells to replace insulin injections, and I predict this will be within 10 years.

Question:  You’re working with BetaLogics Venture of Janssen Research & Development, LLC on the protocol. Do you have plans to commercialize the protocol as a treatment?

Answer: The work by Dr. Alireza Rezania and colleagues at BetaLogics Venture was instrumental in this research; these are the scientists who significantly advanced the differentiation protocol.   The involvement of Janssen greatly increases the chances that this stem cell strategy will develop into a product, with the hopes it will not only treat diabetes, but ultimately cure it.

(Note: This research is supported in part by funding from JDRF, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Regenerative Medicine and Nanomedicine Initiative, and the Stem Cell Network.)

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09
Apr 2014
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Mini-heart Screen Capture

Thinking outside the heart

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Stem cell derived mini-heart can pump blood through sluggish veins

A U.S.-based researcher has come up with what she believes is a stem cell solution for sluggish blood flow that could knock the socks off the current standard of care.…

Stem cell derived mini-heart can pump blood through sluggish veins

A U.S.-based researcher has come up with what she believes is a stem cell solution for sluggish blood flow that could knock the socks off the current standard of care.

“Compression stockings have been used since antiquity,” says Dr. Narine Sarvazyan, a researcher at George Washington University in Washington, DC. “So we really haven’t made much progress in treating chronic venous insufficiency.”

The condition is common, affecting between 20-30% of people over the age of 50. It can be particularly distressing for people with diabetes, causing non-healing ulcers to form on their legs or ankles. It can also affect people who are paralyzed and those recovering from surgery.

Dr. Sarvazyan’s solution is to implant a “mini-heart” made of stem cell derived heart muscle cells called cardiomyocytes at the site where the blood is stagnating.  The cells form a cuff that wraps around the problem vein while rhythmically contracting and releasing to move the blood along. You can see a short video of how it works here.

The invention of the mini-heart has caused quite a stir online.  It has been picked up by the Huffington Post, Science Daily and Business Standard

So far, Dr. Sarvazyan has only created “in vitro” (Petri dish) versions of the mini-hearts in her lab. Her next step, after finalizing the design, will be to move to animal tests with rats and, ultimately, pigs. In a best-case scenario, she hopes to begin clinical trials with people after about two years.

The advantage is the mini-hearts can be tailor-made from stem cells extracted from the patient’s own fatty tissue so that there will be no danger of rejection and little risk of inflammation.

“It’s a very different application,” says Dr. Sarvazyan. “Most people who work with these cardiomyocytes have a goal of repairing cardiac muscles. That is pretty much where everyone is aiming.  But the idea came into my mind that we can use the same tissue and actually use it in different locations much more easily. You don’t have to have that much structured muscle. It doesn’t have to have much force. It’s easier to vascularize because it’s smaller.”

Dr. Sarvazyan outlines the advantages in a paper called Thinking Outside the Heart, published, in the Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology and Therapeutics.

“So far I don’t see any downsides,” she told Stem Cell NewsDesk.  “Of course, nature is much smarter than us. It’s possible when we put it in animals, something may happen that we could not predict.  I can’t say for sure that it will work — we definitely need to test it.”

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