Since insulin was discovered a century ago, it has been the go-to treatment for people with type 1 diabetes. But insulin injections cannot accurately mimic the natural control of blood glucose by islet cells of the pancreas. Although we can now replace islet cells and restore glucose control with islet transplantation, this approach is currently useful only for a small number of people with type 1 diabetes.
Dr. Andrew Pepper, Canada Research Chair in Cell Therapies for Diabetes, has already developed a new and effective way to place islets under the skin and shield them from the body’s immune system. Now, he and his research team are examining why islet cells die after transplant—an event that causes disease recurrence. They are also exploring which molecular pathways are part of this cell death and can be targeted with potential new drugs. Ultimately, preventing islet cell death may lead to the development of treatments that can preserve transplant function indefinitely.