Stem cell clinical trials hope for type 1 diabetes

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Research into type 1 diabetes by the Spinal Cord Society of New Zealand (SCSNZ) has reached an exciting stage, with moves under way towards clinical trials.
Led by clinical research director Dr Jim Faed, the society’s laboratory at the University of Otago Centre for Innovation has developed systems for growing bone marrow stem cells called mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs).
Being able to grow significant quantities of MSCs will allow the society toexpand into clinical trials.
Dr Faed said MSCs supported repair in a range of tissues, and had been found to play an important role in regulating inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, which made them ideal for research into type 1 diabetes.
‘‘There is now good evidence that they will be able to control these processes and autoimmune disease and restore the balance of normal function,’’ Dr Faed said.
‘‘The aim is to turn off the disease and speed up the process of regeneration in the insulin producing cells,’’ he said.
‘‘We are confident that this can be done.’’
At the Dunedin laboratory, which is run by researcher Dr Paul Turner, a library of white blood cells from 24 donors, including 12 people with type 1 diabetes and 12 non-diabetics, has been built up for use in the research. The cells are stored in liquid nitrogen at the facility, and will be used alongside MSC stem cells grown from bone marrow in the research.
To move forward, the ‘‘next big step’’ for the society would be to fit out a suitable laboratory space for clinical trials — a project that was budgeted at $300,000, Dr Faed said.
The laboratory would be a specialised environment, where large quantities of stem cells could be produced, and a new space was needed for this, he said.
‘‘We have managed to gather all of the major pieces of equipment that will be required for the work and we have a suitable space in mind,’’ Dr Faed said.
Now, the major task was to raise the funds to prepare the laboratory space.
‘‘We will be very grateful for the support of the community, as it will help advance this work and make a real difference for people with type 1 diabetes,’’ he said. – Fundraising efforts are continuing in support of the society’s work on type 1 diabetes research and the fitting-out of a laboratory.
Dunedin Host Lions Club will hold a giant garage sale this Saturday, October 15, from 9am to 1pm at St Patrick’s Church hall, 42 Macandrew Rd.
Wests NZ will sponsor the society’s research during November. For every bottle of sugar-free product sold, Wests will donate 10c to the research.