ISCRM researchers are to receive $4 million in funding from the Washington State Life Sciences Discovery Fund (LSDF) to launch a new program for cell-based diabetes therapy. The program will be led by UW investigators in partnership with collaborators across the state and the focus will be to develop human stem cells to restore insulin secretion function in patients with type 1 diabetes.
Type 1 (or juvenile) diabetes occurs when the body’s capacity to secrete insulin can no longer meet its needs. This, in turn, results in elevated blood glucose levels that markedly increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, and other devastating complications. The prevalence of type 1 diabetes has doubled in the US over the past 30 years, and, while treatments exist, there is no cure. This grant launches the Diabetes-Stem Cell Program (DSCP), a multi-institutional effort to unite expertise in stem cell biology with that of the biology of the pancreas (the organ that produces insulin), diabetes, cell therapies, and immunology. Key objectives of the DSCP include not only the creation and commercialization of a new, cell-based method for diabetes treatment, but also the development of strategies to eliminate the risk of tumor formation in implanted cells, and optimization of methods for cell differentiation and analysis. DSCP involves faculty from the UW Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine, UW Diabetes and Obesity Center of Excellence, UW Medical Center, Benaroya Research Institute, and the Department of Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System. It is anticipated that the outcomes of this research could be applied to the development of therapies for type 2 diabetes or other diseases.