Skip to main content

New Stem Cell Implant Holds Hope For Diabetics


A new kind of stem-cell implant shows promising results for treatment in insulin-dependent diabetics.

— Think of the new device as a tea bag of sorts. Only this small bag is filled with cells derived from embryonic stem cells, that turn into pancreatic cells after they’re implanted under the skin.

Certain types of pancreatic cells produce insulin—a hormone needed to regulate blood sugar.

The implant is made by a San Diego based company ViaCyte Inc. The company’s president John West explained how the implant works.

“After implantation, these stem-cell derived cells are effectively growing into human cells of the pancreas, the organ which produces insulin, “ he said.

West said his company’s primary goal is to help Type 1 diabetics, who are typically children and young adults, and insulin dependent Type 2 diabetics.

“In diabetic individuals generally there is not enough insulin being produced, so this implant of young pancreatic cells will essentially provide additional cells that are capable of producing insulin,” said West.

In the last few years of research, hundreds of diabetic mice got the implant and no longer need insulin.

ViaCyte recently received $26 million from the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine. They hope to begin human clinical trials on the implant in 2013.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.