JDRF and Eli Lilly to Fund Regenerative Medicine Research for Type 1 Diabetes

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JDRF and Eli Lilly signed an agreement to fund early-stage research that could enable patients with type 1 diabetes to regenerate the insulin-producing cells destroyed by the disease. The goal of this research agreement is to understand how selected cells can be reprogrammed in order to convert them into insulin-producing cells in the body. This research is an example of regenerative medicine, a new frontier in science that replaces or regenerates new cells, tissues or organs, and while this particular research is early stage, it may lead to new approaches to treating type 1 diabetes.One research approach to finding novel treatments for type 1 diabetes may be to restore insulin production by regenerating insulin-producing cells within a person’s body. This involves triggering the body to grow its own new beta cells, either by growing existing ones – some are usually still active, even in people who have had diabetes for decades – or by creating new ones by reprogramming, which involves converting one type of cell in the body into a different type.  If a therapeutic is developed that will allow for the regeneration of beta cells, it could potentially eliminate the need for insulin.

The JDRF-Lilly agreement will support a three-year, $1.4 million pre-clinical research effort to be led by Dr. Pedro Herrera of the University of Geneva. Previous research by Dr. Herrera showed that alpha cells in the pancreas can spontaneously, and without genetic manipulation, convert into beta cells. This suggests that alpha cell reprogramming could be a viable strategy for regenerating beta cells in people with type 1 diabetes.

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