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Researcher Gopike Nair and her colleagues have produced in vitro cells that make insulin and have successfully implanted them in mice, curing them of type 1 diabetes.

She shares her research with listeners, explaining

  • The difference between type 1 and 2 diabetes and how her research is applicable to both,
  • Some of the challenges in creating these cells and ones they face when entering a patient, and
  • The next milestone to overcome and an estimate of the timing before this therapy will be clinically available.

Dr. Gopkia Nair is a stem cell biologist working as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of California, San Francisco. She has been working on stem cell research and diabetes in order to reintroduce insulin-producing cells into patients who’ve lost these cells and suffer from diabetes type 1.

She begins by explaining the physiology in different types of diabetic conditions and how these generated cells act like beta cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. While her focus is on type 1, she says the therapy will be applicable to both types. 

In order to explain how this therapy works, she explores the cause in more detail, reviewing the immune system’s overdrive that attacks insulin-producing cells after some sort of trigger.

Researchers have found that the disease starts at the beta cell level, exposing a certain protein on the surface that the immune system recognizes and attacks. Scientists are still not sure what the trigger is, but this helps them know they must address this in the cells they’ve created from the stem cells.

She addresses different ways they are protecting the cells from the immune system and how they will introduce the cells into the body of the patient, most likely through a patch in a vascularized area. Finally, she expects this therapy to be available to patients in 5 to 10 years at the latest.

For more, see her LinkedIn page and personal research web page.

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