A potentially revolutionary clinical trial is underway for curing type 1 diabetes (T1D). If successful, it could change the lives of millions of people.

ViaCyte is a California based company responsible for creating PEC-Direct, a credit card shaped implant that lies under the skin slowly releasing cells derived from stem cells in an attempt to cure type 1 diabetes.

Diabetes is a disease affecting 422 million people globally with 10% belonging to the type 1 groups. Currently, type 1 diabetes is uncurable which is unlike type 2 which can be reversed in some cases. Type 1 is classified as an autoimmune disease because the body’s immune cells attack the pancreas, which produces insulin to regulate sugar levels.

Due to the lack of insulin, those with diabetes must take regular insulin shots to help the body regulate sugar levels to live. This can total to astonishing 65,000 injections in their life time.

The PEC-Direct implant would mean millions no longer need to worry about their glucose levels and never have to endure another insulin shot. The cells in the implant are designed to mature inside the human body into the specialised pancreas cells the immune system destroys in those with T1D. The implant is placed just below the skin and releases insulin whenever necessary.

“Patients with high-risk type 1 diabetes complications, such as hypoglycemia unawareness, are at constant risk of life-threatening low blood glucose,” clinical trial investigator Jeremy Pettus from the University of California, San Diego, said in a ViaCyte press release. “The PEC-Direct islet cell replacement therapy is designed to help patients with the most urgent medical need.”

“There are limited treatment options for patients with high-risk type 1 diabetes to manage life-threatening hypoglycemic episodes,” added ViaCyte president and CEO Paul Laikind. “We believe that the PEC-Direct product candidate has the potential to transform the lives of these patients.”

Technologies like this to treat diabetes have been a long time coming. We will not know for sure whether the trial for PEC-Direct is a success for 2 years when the trial ends.

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