First European study tests pioneering stem cell therapy in people with type 1 diabetes

A group of people with type 1 diabetes have become the first in Europe to receive a pioneering stem cells treatment that could restore blood glucose control.
PEC-Direct islet cell replacement therapy (also known as VC-02) has been designed to replace insulin-producing beta cells in people with type 1 diabetes.
If the approach developed by the company ViaCyte is successful in clinical trials then it could represent an exciting, new treatment for the autoimmune condition in the future.
PEC-Direct is an example of encapsulated islet cells. The treatment involves implanting a pouch of living stem cells under the skin of patients. The pouch is engineered to encourage blood vessels to feed the stem cells to help them develop into islet cells and to them alive.
The living islet cells are able to function similar to a pancreas by releasing insulin in direct response to rises in blood glucose.
The start of trial involved implanting the stem cell pouches at UZ Brussel, the University Hospital of Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). The first achievement being monitored is whether the stem cells successfully mature into islet cells. The second phase will monitor how effective the treatment is at producing and releasing insulin.
Those who are participating in the trial are being giving a subtherapeutic dose, which means the doses they receive are less than the amount required for a therapeutic effect.
At the moment developers say the PEC-Direct is only appropriate for those with type 1 diabetes and who are deemed at high risk of acute complications.
In 2018, ViaCyte announced the therapy would be tested in clinical sites in the US. The European trial is being carried by the Center for Beta Cell Therapy in Diabetes in Brussels.
Also last year, ViaCyte reported on the survival success of their PEC-Encap product, also known as VC-01, from their separate STEP ONE clinical trial.