Practical Cure Project Update: Viacyte

JDCA: Practical Cure Project Update: Viacyte

1 Like

Thank you for posting this link.

For quite a while now, Viacyte is where my “hope for a cure” has been placed. I am interested only in the combination stem cell and encapsulated device pathway. Progenitor cells without encapsulation is of no interest to me due to the all-but-inevitable necessity for ongoing immunosuppression.

It’s great to hear that some progress has been made…


I went to a meeting in San Francisco about five years ago. It was sponsored by the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM). This is the agency that was created as a result of California voters passing Prop 71 in 2004. This was largely passed due to the “head in the sand” policies of the Republican president and his administration in their severe limiting of anything to do with stem cell research.

The benefits of this effort were held up in the courts for many years but it now looks like it’s full steam ahead for them. I am proud of the enlightened support of the California electorate in supporting this effort with their tax dollars.

Viacyte has been a beneficiary of CIRM funding. I look forward to their progress.

Sorry for my brief foray into the political but our interest as people with diabetes are often impacted by political actors.


You know, it’s interesting: I don’t have moral opposition embryonic stem cell research. But now, 10-15 years after Bush imposed the federal funding ban on human embryonic stem cell (HESC) research and everyone made such a huge stink about it limiting incredible technologies, I’m just not that excited about HESC-based treatments. Their proliferative ability seems to make them much more prone to developing into tumors. And it seems like induced pluripotent stem cells – say, fat cells taken from your own body and then reprogrammed to “go back in time” to a more undifferentiated state, then reprogrammed to become beta cells, are a more a promising approach.

Don’t get me wrong: If Viacyte shows it can safely provide a lasting remission from insulin-dependence (Say, more than 5 years with a minimal surgery), I would do it in a heartbeat. I just don’t know that this is actually the most promising avenue to pursue.

I was more hopeful early on but I’ve also taken a wait and see approach. There’s always a worry of “unintended consequences.” I don’t think it’s wise, however, to block basic research and study.

It’s why my wife and I have decided that any “amazing” technological breakthroughs that may come our way regarding to Diabetes, Stem cell, AP, or otherwise, we’ll wait to get our son on anything until it’s 2nd or 3rd generation to be sure all of those “unintended consequences” are mitigated/eliminated.

But this, or any advancements, IMHO, can only serve to improve the lives of millions once they are seen to fruition.

yeah, not sure I agree on that one. Some types of basic research have such a potential to blow up in our faces that we should block them (say, tweaking bird flu to make it more deadly or making it spread more easily via an airborne route).

I don’t think that HESCs are in that category, don’t think there was a particular moral imperative to block them. I just think that in this instance, preventing funding for HESCs did not necessarily have the stultifying effect on research that everyone assumes it did, and that it may have spurred an interest in more fruitful approaches using IPSCs.

In the long term, the use of encapsulation devices is not very elegant and doesn’t address the underlying problem. IMHO, the key would seem to be to identify the epitopes responsible for recognition of the beta cells by the immune system. If you could do this, you could use CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing to either delete the determinant, or if the protein is essential for cell function, modify the epitope responsible.


I agree that the long long term solution would be to manipulate the underlying genes responsible for the attacks in the first place and/or reprogram the beta cells so that they’re not recognized by the immune system as invaders.

While there may be limitations to Viacyte’s product, one of the more promising aspects of the product is that it could be mass-produced. If we were to use the approach you described (taking cells from one’s own body), such a process would be so expensive that it would never be covered by insurance (or at least not for a very long time).

To be fair… the “ban” on stem cell research was almost entirely a political slogan. What actually took place was a limitation in federal funding for stem cell research that created and harvested human embryos for research.

Without getting too far off in the weeds-- during this time frame stem cell research still expanded exponentially, with the proponents of such “ban” citing that there are no shortage of stem cells to study without the destruction of embryos/ fetus. Without taking sides on the politics (because that’s not what we really do here) I would just say that the ethics and morality of technology are a subject of some interest to me.

There are some fascinating TED talks on DNA, genome, gene therapy, CRISPR technology, etc— i highly recommend them to anyone interested— they also do frequently focus on the ethical implications of technology which I find tremendously thought provoking

1 Like

The ban was a result of religious outcry and political pressure for that religious outcry.

Yes, and while I don’t share that perspective, I do recognize that these people are as entitled to their opinion, and respect, as I am.

We live in a democracy (thank goodness). There are always a range of reasonable views on policy and society. Again, while I disagree, I can also understand the motives of those who oppose embryonic stem-cell research, or treatment derived from such.

Actually, I do have to admit I have some agreement with one objection – the potential for abuse. I do have a concern for “going too far” ethically with something like this, similar to the “dying with dignity” euthanasia concerns.

In the latter, there’s always the risk that people who don’t have a person’s best interests in mind, but rather their own, are pushing to euthanize a relative, for example.

There are very legitimate ethical concerns with embryonic stem cell research, in the opinion of many, many fellow americans. While it’s certainly fair game to disagree, and work in favor of one’s own view, I often shake my head in sadness at the degree of incivility and disrespect that seems to be pretty one-sided when this issue is debated.

Thankfully, haven’t seen that here (yet).