Doctors test injection-free diabetes treatment
LONDON, Ont. – A London company has marked another milestone in developing a revolutionary treatment for diabetes.
A research team at the University of Alberta has conducted the first human trial of a cell pouch developed by Sernova Corp. at London's Western University.
The credit-card sized cell pouch was implanted in the patient's belly and is functioning as an artificial organ, using islets from a donated pancreas to read blood-sugar levels and create insulin naturally.
This could potentially eliminate the need for blood testing and injections for people with diabetes.
Sernova chief executive Philip Toleikis said it's too early to assess the success of the human trial but he said interim results will be released early next year.
The Edmonton researchers, led by Dr. James Shapiro, are using anti-rejection treatment to ensure the patient's body accepts the islets in the cell pouch.
Sernova is the first company to get approval for human trials on the pouch and islet technology.
In the medical field, where testing is a long, slow process, Sernova's project is moving fast. Sernova's seven employees have been working on the technique for about three years.
Toleikis said the next step for the cell pouch is full international trials and approvals from regulatory bodies. He anticipates that will take about five years.
"Five years is actually not that long for a medical product to be approved," he said.
Diabetes occurs when the pancreas doesn't produce enough insulin, or when the body can't effectively use the insulin it produces.
It's estimated 285 million people worldwide have diabetes, a figure expected to rise to 438 million within 20 years.
From 2008 to 2010, Sernova received $2.5 million in investments and $775,000 from the National Research Council's Industrial Research Assistance program.