Researchers from San Diego-based ViaCyte and UC San Diego provided new details about the first-ever human clinical trial of a stem cell-derived therapy for patients with type 1 diabetes yesterday at a scientific symposium at The Salk Institute.
The early stage clinical trial is intended to test the safety of an approach that ViaCyte has spent over 12 years developing, according to Kevin D’Armour, ViaCyte’s chief scientific officer.
The approach, called islet replacement therapy, implants a semi-permeable packet containing human embryonic stem cells just under the skin of patients with type 1 diabetes. ViaCyte has engineered the stem cells to grow into healthy pancreatic cells that produce insulin and other hormones used to maintain normal levels of blood sugar.
UC San Diego is overseeing the first cohort of patients in the clinical trial, and a simple surgical procedure to implant ViaCyte’s packets in the first patient is scheduled for Oct. 21, according to Robert Henry, a UC San Diego professor of medicine and chief of endocrinology, metabolism, and diabetes at the VA San Diego Healthcare System. Henry said two more patients would get the implants in November and December.
“By the end of the year, we should have a significant amount of information about the first three patients in the first cohort,” Henry said in a heavily attended presentation at the 9th Annual Scientific Symposium of the “Stem Cell Meeting on the Mesa.”
The ViaCyte trial represents “the absolute leading edge of stem cell research,” said Larry Goldstein, a leading research scientist in regenerative medicine at UC San Diego and director of the university’s new Sanford Stem Cell Clinical Center. Only a handful of similar efforts in stem cell research have gotten as far as human clinical trials, Goldstein added.