A Possible Cure for T1D?
A new treatment using stem cells that produce insulin is giving new hope that a cure is right around the corner for the 1.5 million Americans living with type 1 diabetes.
Brian Shelton was the first patient to get an infusion of stem cells just like the insulin-producing pancreas cells his body lacked. Now his body automatically controls its insulin and blood sugar levels.
On a typical day, Shelton would inject 34 units of insulin to manage his sugar levels. The year before treatment, Shelton experienced five severe, potentially life-threatening episodes where his blood sugar was too low. The infusion of the stem cell-derived treatment called VX-880 changed that.
The Vertex Pharmaceuticals clinical trial for VX-880 is ongoing, but the latest data is extremely promising, revealing Shelton now needs 91% less insulin. His response is remarkable, considering the researchers only injected half of the target dose as part of an initial test.
Like patients who get pancreas transplants, Shelton must take drugs that suppress his immune system. Though these drugs can have undesirable side effects, he says they have not caused him any, and he finds them far less risky than constantly monitoring his blood sugar and taking insulin. However, Shelton will have to continue taking the immunosuppressive medications for the rest of his life to prevent his body from rejecting the infused cells.
The study is continuing and will take five years, and involves 17 people with severe cases of type 1 diabetes. It is not intended to treat the more common type 2 diabetes.
To read more about VX-880, click here.
Additional Breakthroughs to Watch in 2022
Nanotechnology to the Rescue
Tissue in the pancreas called islets control insulin production when blood sugar levels change, and in type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system attacks and destroys such insulin-producing cells. Islet transplantation has emerged over the past few decades as a potential cure for type 1 diabetes. With healthy transplanted islets, patients with type 1 diabetes may no longer need insulin injections, but transplantation efforts have faced setbacks as the immune system continues to reject new islets eventually.
Researchers at Northwestern University have discovered a technique to help control the immune response more effectively. The method uses nanocarriers, or drug delivery molecules, to re-engineer the commonly used immunosuppressant drug rapamycin. Using these rapamycin-loaded nanocarriers, the researchers generated a new form of immunosuppression capable of targeting specific cells related to the transplant without suppressing wider immune responses.
Tandem Diabetes Care
For the first time, people with diabetes (PWDs) will likely see technology giving us the ability to control our medical devices via mobile smartphone apps—including remote insulin dosing. This functionality has been hinted at for many years but hasn’t yet been approved by the Food and drug administration (FDA) for use in diabetes devices. However, that’s about to change.
Tandem Diabetes Care will likely be the first to get FDA clearance on a smartphone app that can be used to control an insulin delivery device. The newly designed t:connect app will allow remote insulin dosing via a mobile app with that added function. The company had filed its expanded mobile app functionality with the FDA in late 2020, but due to the pandemic, it was delayed.
In the latest public updates, Tandem’s leadership noted that the company expects approval and launch this year.
Lily’s Smart Tempo Connected Pen
Eli Lilly had planned to launch its new Tempo Smart Pen system during the second half of 2021, but that didn’t happen, and now it’s expected this year. Lilly is collaborating with Welldoc to integrate a new version of Welldoc’s BlueStar app into what’s known as Lilly’s Tempo Personalized Diabetes Management Platform.
The first version of that platform will be a data transfer module known as “Tempo Smart Button,” which attaches to the top of a prefilled disposable insulin pen (Tempo Pen) initially approved in 2019.
FDA Clears Omnipod 5 Closed-Loop Tubeless Insulin Pump
Two weeks ago, the FDA gave the go-ahead to Omnipod 5 closed-loop tubeless insulin pump for adults and children over the age of 6. Omnipod 5 is a patch-like device capable of adjusting daily doses to changes in the wearer’s blood sugar levels.
Omnipod 5 is controlled by a smartphone and pairs with Dexcom’s G6 continuous glucose monitor to provide automated background insulin delivery. Using the Dexcom G6, the hybrid closed-loop system takes a blood sugar reading every five minutes and then works to predict trends up to one hour in the future. By increasing, decreasing, or pausing insulin, the device aims to keep glucose levels from going too high or dropping too low.