UC Irvine & Start up Collaborate to Research Cell-Therapy-based Islet Transplantation for Type I Diabetes

Jan 3, 2020 | Cell Therapy, Islet Transplantation, Regenerative Medicine, Stem Cell, Type 1 Diabetes

UC Irvine & Start up Collaborate to Research Cell-Therapy-based Islet Transplantation for Type I Diabetes

University of California, Irvine (UCI) and its Clinical Islet Program led by Dr. Jonathan Lakey and Diomics Corporation, a leader in forensic, diagnostic and therapeutic science since 2009, jointly announced a Sponsored Research Agreement to ultimately improve islet transplantation for patients living with type 1 diabetes.

Before proceeding to the heart of this collaborative effort—where Diomics Corporation has entered into a relationship for a Sponsored Research Agreement with a prominent public university, University of California, Irvine—a brief overview of the subject matter courtesy of the Diabetes Research Institute.

What is Islet Transplantation?

According to the Diabetes Research Institute (DRI), islets refer to “the Islets of Langerhans,” which are scattered throughout the pancreas. There are an estimated 1 million islets in a healthy, adult pancreas and they make up only 1 to 2% of the entire organ. These islets are actually clusters of cells and each islet contains 3,000 to 4,000 cells that all work together to regulate blood sugar. One cell type amongst these cells is called the beta cell. These beta cells sense sugar in the blood and release the necessary amount of insulin to maintain normal blood sugar levels.

The immune system mistakenly sees beta cells as “potential danger” and destroys them, triggering type 1 diabetes. The loss of these cells means the body can no longer produce insulin (the hormone required to convert food into energy for the body’s cells). With diabetes, the insulin producing islet cells cease to function—but 98% of the pancreas remains to functional normally producing digestive enzymes.

Islet transplantation is a process of separating the islet cells from a donor pancreas and then transplanting these cells into a person with type 1 diabetes. This was incredibly difficult to accomplish until the 1980s when Dr. Camillo Ricordi (current DRI director) developed the “Ricordi Chamber,” which is an automated method for isolating islets.  Thereafter, a greater number of cells could be obtained from one organ, opening up more transplants. 

DRI reports that clinical trials evidence that islet transplantation is the only procedure—outside of a full pancreas transplant—that can restore the natural insulin production in patients afflicted with type 1 diabetes. The DRI reports that several recipients of islet transplant have been able to live without the need for insulin therapy—in some cases, for more than 10 years.

The Current Methods in Context

According to the UCI and Diomics press release, the current methods for islet transplantation are challenging: they require invasive, difficult and time-consuming surgeries that trigger stress and risk for both patient and the islets. The research team suggests that by circumventing these issues, cell encapsulation has been proposed as the next treatment option.  Biomaterials can protect the transplanted islets from destruction from the body. Apparently, polycaprolactone (PCL) polymer has been used in cell replacement therapy, but the PCL polymer degrade too slowly and demonstrate poor cell adhesion qualities for optimal cell replacement therapy. Diomics reports its technology helps overcome these issues for improved cell adhesion.

Diomics Files Provisional Patents

Diomics has filed provisional patents with claims covering its proprietary polymer technology known as Diomat™ for applications in cell therapy, transdermal and related drug deliveries. The Diomics and UCI research will support the development of key data that can be leveraged in clinical trials for improved islet transplantation therapy.  Improved islet transplantation can restore natural insulin production for type 1 diabetes.

Sponsored Research: Leveraging a Global Cell Therapy SME

UCI’s Dr. Jonathan Lakey, a world-class subject matter expert on cell therapies, including pancreatic islets, and stem cells, will lead this research. Dr. Lakey has contributed to this body of research science by helping to pioneer the development of novel methods for implantation of pancreatic islets for patients with diabetes.

In the UCI/Diomics sponsored research effort, Diomat foams will be used to characterize the Diomics material and examine encapsulated pancreatic islets and stem cells for improved islet transplantation therapy. The hope is that the data generated from this endeavor will produce key results to help contribute to clinical trials using Diomat foam-encapsulated products.

Who is Diomics Corporation?

Diomics Corporation creates highly efficient hydrophilic materials, based on patented Diomat technology, that improve the speed, sensitivity, and accuracy in the capture and detection of nucleic acids, proteins and similar compounds. Their technology, they position, has broad applicability in a multitude of nanoscale settings in biomedical engineering, genomics, proteomics and stem cell research.

Founded in 2009, associated with Kirk Avery (an investor), and based in the beautiful San Diego area—one of America’s leading life science cluster regions—they appear to be a small research oriented venture with only a handful of employees. They appear to have a few current markets for their products but don’t have a lot of employees, and TrialSite News research suspects still primarily a research-based startup.

Lead Research/Investigator

Dr. Jonathan Lakey, Professor of Surgery and Biomedical Engineering, UCI

Dr. Lake is a global subject matter expert on cell therapies, including pancreatic islets and stem cells. He has over 395 publications and authored 45 book chapters; moreover, he has pioneered the development of novel methods for implantation of pancreatic islets for patients with diabetes.

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