ViaCyte released encouraging data just now on a patient with implanted stem cell-derived pancreas-like device whose diabetes improved. You can read more about this in the Endpoints piece that I linked to in the previous sentence.
Stem cells for diabetes; the ViaCyte update
The idea of stem cells for diabetes has been more on my mind in part because I did a piece earlier this week on the topic. For more on this research check out my post from a few days ago. It also says a bit more about the ViaCyte approach and competitors.
In a nutshell, the new data point to not a cure, but a treatment in this form. Endpoints quoted a few different scientists:
“It’s actually very impressive — I was not impressed by their first trial, but this is a major improvement,” Camillo Ricordi, director of the Diabetes Research Institute at the University of Miami, told Endpoints News. “It’s a critical first step, it shows that they can work.”
Jeanne Loring was a little less excited:
“I would think it’s not having enough of an effect,” Jeanne Loring, a professor emeritus at Scripps Research, told Endpoints.
Loring, who helped found Viacyte and 1998 and maintains a modicum of stock, said the results were good but unsurprising. “With any of these cell replacement therapies, the wish is to have a complete cure,” she added, “but at least until they get better, it is likely to just reduce the need for insulin.”
Who would have predicted this, but I’m a bit more with Ricordi on this one in terms of it being an exciting milestone even if the data are so limited and the effect wasn’t a homerun.
Still it’s only one patient so we have to be somewhat cautionary. Data from far more patients will be needed to see how consistent the ViaCyte approach turns out to be. It’s likely it won’t work for everyone.
It’s also possible that the firm can continue to improve the product in pursuit of a cure for some patients. However, even without an actual cure, a substantial reduction in the amount of insulin needed for many patients could be transformative.
There’s growing competition in this space, which is good for patients.