“It’s pricking your finger endlessly throughout the day.
It’s not being afraid of blood because you get used to seeing so much of it.
It’s no longer feeling tremor to a needle because you’ve had no choice than to be poked by them every day.
It’s seeing all the scars all over our tummy, arms and legs from all the site changes and pokes and just cry.”

These are Valeria Guerrero’s answers to the question: What is it like to live with Type 1 diabetes?

Sounds absolutely horrible, doesn’t it?

That’s why news of the clinical trials of ViaCyte’s PEC-Direct, an implant that grows insulin-producing cells from stem cells to treat type 1 diabetes patients, is such great news.

Dramatic life-changing intervention

If successful, the implant could change the lives of millions of people living with type 1 diabetes dramatically because they won’t need to inject themselves with insulin anymore.

With type 1 diabetes the body’s immune system attacks cells in the pancreas, preventing the organ from producing enough insulin. With type 2 diabetes the body can’t use the insulin that is produced effectively.

Type 2 diabetes, often referred to as a lifestyle illness, can be treated through lifestyle changes, but type 1 can only be treated with insulin injections.

The World Health Organisation reports that the number of people with diabetes has risen from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014. WHO projects that diabetes will be the seventh leading cause of death in 2030.

On August 1, San Diego-based ViaCyte, Inc., a privately-held, regenerative medicine company, announced that the first patients have been implanted with the PEC-Direct device. It is an islet cell (specialized pancreatic cells) replacement therapy in development for patients with type 1 diabetes who are at high risk for acute life-threatening complications.

ViaCyte has worked on turning human stem cells into pancreatic precursor cells that can mature to produce insulin and control blood glucose levels in diabetic patients. The precursor cells are contained in semi-permeable PEC-Direct device which is implanted under the skin of diabetic patients. After implantation, these cells are expected to become mature human islet tissue and to produce insulin on demand.

This therapy is being developed specifically for type 1 diabetes patients that are at a higher risk of severe hypoglycemic episodes, extreme glycemic lability and hypoglycemia unawareness all of which can be fatal.

“Patients with high-risk type 1 diabetes complications, such as hypoglycemia unawareness, are at constant risk of life-threatening low blood glucose,” said Jeremy Pettus, MD, investigator in the clinical trial and Assistant Professor of Medicine at UC San Diego. “The PEC-Direct islet cell replacement therapy is designed to help patients with the most urgent medical need.”

It’s for people like Valeria Guerrero who can never leave her house without all her supplies with her, just in case….