Recently, JDRF announced that it is
jointly funding research at the Diabetes Research Institute (DRI) with The Leona
M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. The grant will support the efforts
of Dr. Camillo Ricordi and his team as they work to advance the field of islet
cell implantation and encapsulation.
For JDRF, funding type 1 diabetes (T1D) research at DRI is
not new. In fact, over the past 10 years, JDRF alone has funded roughly $12 million
in research at Dr. Ricordi’s lab. In addition to having top scientists, such as
Dr. Ricordi, the institute combines both the basic science and clinical
resources needed to approach problems from multiple disciplinary perspectives,
allowing for the potential of more complete solutions.
In the case of beta cell transplantation, the current
methods, while showing moderate success, still suffer from limitations that
hamper the effectiveness of the treatment. That is why JDRF has made beta cell encapsulation
one of its research priorities. However, developing the technology to
encapsulate islet cells is only one part of the solution, as those cells must
then be safely implanted in a way that enables them to flourish without
requiring a lifetime of drug therapy.
JDRF and The Helmsley Charitable Trust turned to DRI for its expertise in the area of
transplantation and its multidisciplinary approach to research, to develop a
procedure that would enable the safe implantation of encapsulated cells. If
successful, this procedure would create a platform technology that addresses
the limitations posed by clinical islet transplantation as it is practiced
today. The approach moves the cells away from the liver—widely considered an
inhospitable transplant site for islets—and incorporates a bio-protective scaffold
that can accommodate many other beneficial technologies to protect islets from
the immune system, including cell encapsulation. As part of the grant, DRI is
also working on its own solution for cell encapsulation by developing an
extremely thin coating of polymer around the islets.
This grant is the latest example of how JDRF and its
partner, The Helmsley Charitable Trust, are directing research through funding
key programs in order to fill gaps. DRI’s comprehensive approach addresses both
sides of encapsulation, developing techniques to coat and implant the cells.
In our efforts to cure T1D, JDRF actively supports research aimed at restoring a person's insulin