Home » Diabetes » Winning freedom and abandoning thoughts of type 1 diabetes

Emma Bygdén

T1D app

Elin Cederbrant

T1D app

A woman diagnosed with type 1 diabetes seized the opportunity to participate in a research study involving stem cell infusion. Stem cell injection was found to increase her insulin production.

We met Layla through a video link on a Friday afternoon at the beginning of March. The only thing we knew before the meeting was that she participated in a study. With great curiosity and anticipation, we clicked into the conversation and are met by 31-year-old Layla. Four years ago, she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D), but her life with T1D looks a little different than most others who have lived with the disease for a few years.

Effect of stem cell infusion

In 2019, Layla participated in the Pro-Trans2 study and belonged to the group that received stem cell infusion. What one hopes to show in the studies (stem cell preparations) is that the immune system can be taught not to attack the insulin-producing beta cells that remain for a period after the illness. This remaining insulin production decreases and disappears for the vast majority within a few months or a year.

With the possibility to preserve the insulin production that remains at the time of illness, life with T1D can be greatly improved, and the risk for future complications decreases. For Layla, the results have been outstanding. Her insulin production has not only been maintained at the same level as when she joined the study but it actually increased since she got stem cells, and it continues to increase with each follow-up she attends.

“I mostly take insulin with food but in small quantities — one or a few units only. In general, I cannot post-correct the blood sugar going up, because if it drops too much, it’s as if the body has already reacted with the insulin.”

The patients treated retained a higher insulin production after 12 months compared
to the patients treated with a placebo.

Getting to know your diabetes

Layla was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 27 after she noticed her vision was blurry and sought care. The disease was completely unknown to her, but she quickly decided to take it all with calmness while she read up, learned to measure her blood sugar and take insulin.

Layla saw an ad where they were looking for participants for a research study on T1D, and she quickly decided to participate.

Layla is now involved in a follow-up study. It follows how the stem cells work in her body and how her insulin production develops. In September 2020, the first results from the study were presented. It was announced that a significant effect had been demonstrated.

Increased insulin production

The patients treated retained a higher insulin production after 12 months compared to the patients treated with a placebo. C-peptide levels — a measure of the body’s own insulin production — in the patients who received the placebo decreased by an average of –47%.

Corresponding levels for the patients treated with the stem cells decreased by an average of –10%. Two out of nine people who received the stem cells had even increased their insulin production after the first year.

Improving everyday life

Layla received her dose of stem cells in 2019, and her insulin production continues to increase. When we — who have lived with T1D for many years — talk to Layla, we are struck by how little she thinks about her illness in her everyday life and how much there is to gain even if one does not get completely cured. Of course, no one knows what will happen in the future — if the stem cells Layla has received have yet reached maximum effect, if they will continue to benefit her in the future or if her insulin production will decrease again. But she has a positive view of life and the future: “I absolutely believe that researchers will find a cure for type 1 diabetes. It feels close, and it’s exciting!”

NextCell is working with the drug candidate ProTrans, which was developed to lift autoimmunity and thus stop the breakdown of insulin-producing cells. More studies will be carried out to prove the effect in more patients, and the goal is for ProTrans to be approved and become the standard treatment for new patients with type 1 diabetes.

You can read more about NextCell Pharma and their operation of a stem cell bank at www.cellaviva.se/

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