A new method for the treatment of diabetes patients will transform the patient’s liver into an organ that produces insulin. The first trial of its kind in humans will begin next week at the Rambam Medical Center.
Medicine today is still unable to offer treatment that will cure millions of diabetics worldwide. In these patients, the pancreas is damaged and therefore the beta cells do not produce insulin, which is needed by the body to bring blood sugar into the cells of the body. These people’s lives depend on the daily injection of insulin into the body.
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The liver cells will become pancreatic cells
The first study of its kind in the world, which will start next week at Rambam Medical Center, together with Orgenesis, a cell and gene therapy technology developer, will examine whether it is possible to take diabetic liver cells and by reprogramming to make them genetically modified to become pancreatic cells.
At this stage, the researchers will take liver cells from type 1 diabetes (called also juvenile diabetes) or from patients who are facing pancreatic resection. In technology developed by the company, the researchers will try to transform the cells into beta cells of the pancreas. In the second stage, they will examine whether the pancreatic beta cells, developed in the laboratory, are able to respond to high levels of sugar and whether they produce insulin.
In the lab, the researches will also examine the response of the immune system in the patient’s blood to the new cells to make sure that the patient’s immune system accepts and does not reject them. If this stage passes successfully, the health authorities will then have to allow the researchers to return the programmed cells to the patient’s liver to see if they will be absorbed into the patient’s body and whether they will produce insulin.
“If the technology proves its effectiveness, it will be a therapeutic revolution,” Prof. Naim Shehadeh, principal investigator and director of the Department of Endocrinology and Diabetes at Rambam Medical Center, told Ynet News. We can rid the patients of insulin dependence and cause another organ in the body to independently produce the insulin needed, regardless of the pancreas. ”
This breakthrough technology is the product of Israeli development, by Prof. Sarah Farber, Chief Scientist of Orgenesis. “I am excited and proud that Israel is the first place in the world that is about to leapfrog the research path, which in the future will dramatically improve the lives of the patients, and we can begin to talk about the cure of diabetes,” said Prof. Farber.
However, it is too early to say that the treatment is effective for treating diabetes and will need to wait for the results of the studies to draw conclusions.