Source: Health Canal / Photo: Human pancreatic adult islet, courtesy UNSW

(EDMONTON, Alberta, Canada) — James Shapiro, one of the world’s leading experts in emerging treatments of diabetes, can’t help but be excited about his latest research. The results, he says, could soon mark a new standard for treatment—not only for diabetes, but for several other diseases as well.

Shapiro, Canada Research Chair in Transplantation Surgery and Regenerative Medicine in the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, and Andrew Pepper, a post-doctoral fellow working in his lab, are the lead authors in a study published in the April 20 edition of the journal Nature Biotechnology. In the study, the authors describe developing a new site for islet transplantation under the skin, which they believe will offer less risk and far greater health benefits for patients.

Islet transplantation is a procedure that temporarily allows people with severe diabetes to stop taking insulin.

While the new transplant approach offers several benefits to diabetes patients, the researchers are equally excited by how it may be applied to other illnesses. Shapiro says his team is also testing its use in stem cell transplantations—which, if successful, could safely open the door to allow for assessment of emerging stem cell treatments.

“Until now it has been nearly impossible for transplanted cells to function reliably when placed beneath the skin,” says Shapiro. “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. This approach is new and especially exciting as it opens up a new world of opportunities, not only in diabetes, but also across the board in regenerative medicine.”

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