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Stem cells could blow hole in insulin market

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  • Stem cells could blow hole in insulin market

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    Stem cells could blow hole in insulin market

    The days of insulin replacement therapy for diabetics could be numbered after a new stem cell therapy has proved effective in early tests and research in the field is tipped to 'explode'.

    Julio Voltarelli from the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Richard Burt from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, described results from their stem cell therapy as "very encouraging". After just one injection of stem cells, the vast majority of patients no longer needed insulin injections - with the effects lasting between one and 35 months.

    A Type I diabetes treatment that doesn't involve multiple insulin injections every day could offer hope of an almost needle-free life for those who suffer from the debilitating disease.

    "The time may indeed be coming for starting to reverse and prevent Type I diabetes," said diabetes expert Dr Jay Skyler, at the University of Miami, commenting on the research.

    "This the first of what likely will be many attempts at cellular therapy to interdict the type 1 DM disease process. Research in this field is likely to explode in the next few years and should include randomised controlled trials as well as mechanistic studies," he said.

    The scientists treated 15 newly diagnosed Type I diabetics with high-doses of drugs to suppress their immune system. They were then injected with stem cells originally collected from their own blood and measured the length of time the patients did not need supplementary insulin injections.

    "93 per cent of patients achieved different periods of insulin independence and treatment-related toxicity was low, with no mortality," the researchers said. However, how the stem cells exert their effect is not yet known.

    14 patients did not need insulin injections: one for 35 months; four for at least 21 months; seven for at least 6 months; and two with late response were insulin-free for one and five months respectively. One of the patients had to resume insulin replacement one year after the stem cell therapy.

    A further drawback to insulin replacement therapies is that they do not prevent many side effects such as blindness, heart attacks, loss of limbs and kidney function (although frequent or continuous insulin replacement has been shown to reduce some negative effects).

    A stem cell therapy might also address these problems by directly treating the cause of the disease - namely the autoimmune destruction of insulin-producing beta islet cells in the pancreas. By keeping more beta cells alive, disease complications could also be avoided.

    Autologous nonmyeloablative haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (AHST) involves removing a patient's own stem cells from their blood, treating them and then re-injecting them back into the patient. The results are published in today's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

    A successful stem cell therapy could also severely impact the multi-billion dollar insulin market where a barrage of other 'treatment revolutions' have proved, or may still prove, lacklustre.

    Pfizer developed the world's first, and currently only, inhaled-insulin product, Exubera. Once cited as a potential blockbuster drugs, initial sales have, however, been disappointing for the pharma heavyweight with analysts like David Risinger, at Merrill Lynch, reducing sales forecasts to a little as $310m (€231m).

    The performance of Exubera does not bode well for the potential of other inhaled insulin products currently in development to capture the hearts of patients and doctors alike. Meanwhile, other insulin innovations, such as the insulin pump have had limited success.

    Stem cells are not the only option when it comes to treating diabetes without insulin replacement. Dr Skyler explained that other possible cell-based treatments for diabetes include infusion of various immune system cells such as dendritic cells, T-regulatory lymphocytes, embryonic or adult stem cells, and allogenic bone marrow transplantation.

  • #2
    Re: Stem cells could blow hole in insulin market

    Originally posted by Fattoo View Post
    The scientists treated 15 newly diagnosed Type I diabetics with high-doses of drugs to suppress their immune system.
    Immunosuppressives may be less appealing than insulin injections. Ciclosporin and azathiprine versus insulin pens.... would be a hard choice to choose the lesser of the two discomfitures.