Otago Researchers Prep for Diabetes Trial

Otago Researchers Prep for Diabetes Trial

Clinical Trial for Type 1 Diabetes to Begin Within Two Years

A group of research scientists from the University of Otago is currently preparing to begin clinical trials of a cure for type 1 diabetes. Led by cell biologist, Dr. Jim Faed, clinical trials are expected to begin within the next two years.

The research involves extracting bone marrow from individuals who have the disease. This marrow can then be used to stimulate production of the hormone insulin. The stem cells are said to stop the autoimmune response that prevents insulin from being produced. Insulin is required to remove excess glucose from the blood; those who suffer from type 1 diabetes do not produce this naturally.

Faed said the procedure, which takes between 30 and 40 minutes, is completed using local anesthetic. The donor lies on their side, and a bone-marrow needle is worked inside of the “bony bit at the back of the pelvis.”

A syringe is attached, and three to five millilitres of blood and bone marrow are extracted.

Although these cells are widely associated with blood, Faed says that his team’s research is interested in connective tissue cells. As there are 25,000 people in New Zealand suffering from type 1 diabetes, there are plenty of opportunities to find donors. The disease’s precise markers also make it useful for research purposes. So far, there have been successful trials on both rodents and humans, but the treatment still requires some further adjustments.

The research has many more potential uses in healthcare, including multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and other diseases caused by autoimmune reactions. The Spinal Cord Society New Zealand, with which Faed is affiliated, is interested in using the stem cells involved in new treatment methods for patients with spinal-cord injuries. This is in line with the organisation’s focus on “Cure, not care”, which emphasises the importance of curing disease at the source, rather than merely caring for those suffering from it.

In order to raise the funds for the trials to continue, the research team is fund-raising at local events, such as the Lions’ Lark in the Park family day. Those interested in helping the Spinal Cord Society to find a cure can make a donation on their official website at scsnz.org.nz. All donations are used for research funding, and donations over five dollars are eligible for a tax rebate in New Zealand.

This article first appeared in Issue 2, 2015.
Posted 6:26pm Sunday 1st March 2015 by Amber Allott.