Johnson & Johnson is joining forces with biotech company ViaCyte to speed the development of the first stem cell treatment used to fix Type 1 diabetes, according to The Associated Press.
The company has already begun testing the cure with a small number of diabetic patients as well as animals. If the cure works, it could mean an end to frequent insulin injections and blood sugar testing.
The therapy involves inducing embryonic stem cells in a lab dish and turning them into insulin-producing cells, then putting them inside a small capsule implanted in the skin. The capsule would then protect the cells from being attacked, which is a roadblock researchers have faced in the past.
Although researchers at universities have attempted to work toward a cure, ViaCyte noted that its cure is the first that’s been tested on humans. If the research succeeds, the cure could be available to patients with Type 1 diabetes in several years.
"This one is potentially the real deal," Dr. Tom Donner, director of the diabetes center at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said. "It's like making a new pancreas that makes all the hormones" needed to control blood sugar.
Donner noted that the device could give patients normal insulin levels and prevent them from having dangerous complications.