San Diego, CA / February 20, 2008 - Novocell, Inc.,
a stem cell engineering company, today announced data demonstrating for
the first time that human embryonic stem (hES) cells can be turned into
pancreatic cells capable of producing insulin in mice. The findings are
reported in an article appearing on-line today, in advance of print publication,
in the journal Nature Biotechnology. This research provides evidence
supporting the potential future use of hES cells to replace insulin-producing
pancreatic cells that are destroyed in people with Type 1 diabetes, requiring
them to receive regular insulin treatment.
The findings build on two previously reported studies by Novocell (Nature
Biotechnology 2005 and 2006), whereby Novocell scientists demonstrated
a process that successfully engineers hES cells into specific cells necessary
for pancreas formation, and endocrine cells capable of producing insulin
and other pancreatic hormones.
In this new work, Novocell has demonstrated that implantation of hES-derived
pancreatic cells into mice results in the generation of glucose-responsive
insulin producing cells. These cells exhibit properties characteristic
of functional adult pancreatic insulin producing cells in the pancreas.
Most importantly, these hES-derived cells provide protection in an
animal model of diabetes characterized by loss of pancreatic insulin
"Our data provide the first compelling evidence that hES cells
can serve as a renewable source of functional insulin producing cells
for diabetes cell replacement therapies," said Emmanuel Baetge,
Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer of Novocell and senior author of the
publication. "It also provides strong evidence that hES cell-derived
endoderm cells are able to generate glucose-responsive insulin secreting
cells that are functionally similar to adult human beta cells."
Current cellular therapy for diabetes is performed by transplanting donor-derived
human islets combined with chronic immunosuppression. While this has
been demonstrated to be an effective therapy, the limited availability
of donated pancreatic islets and the adverse side effects of long-term
immunosuppression make this replacement therapy unsuitable for the general
Together with its stem cell engineering technology for insulin-producing
cells, Novocell has also developed a delivery process by which such
cells might be delivered to patients without the need for chronic immunosuppression.
Novocell's encapsulation technology provides a protective, coating
for cells, thus allowing them to be more readily accepted in the body
without the chronic use of immunosuppressive drugs. This encapsulation
technology has been successfully tested in human clinical trials using
human islets isolated from donor organs.
"By developing proprietary processes to successfully generate insulin-producing
cells from hES cells in vivo and protecting these cells from immune system
rejection, we have created a potential treatment option that could lead to
the first widespread application of cell replacement therapy for the treatment
of diabetes," said Alan J. Lewis, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive
Officer of Novocell. "We look forward to the continued advancement of
these technologies that hold such promise for transforming the treatment of
Type 1, or insulin-dependent diabetes occurs when the pancreas ceases
to produce insulin due to an autoimmune response that causes the selective
destruction of insulin producing cells. People with Type 1 diabetes
must take daily insulin and are candidates for pancreatic islet cell
transplantation, which provides the potential to treat the disease.
The disease is most common in children and young adults, accounting
for approximately 10 percent of diabetes cases. The Juvenile Diabetes
Research Foundation estimates that more than 1.1 million people suffer
from Type 1 diabetes in the United States alone. Additionally, approximately
30 percent of people with Type 2 diabetes require insulin therapy and
could potentially benefit from islet cell transplantation
Novocell, Inc. is a stem cell engineering company with research operations
in San Diego, California and Athens, Georgia, dedicated to creating,
delivering and commercializing cell and drug therapies for diabetes
and other chronic diseases. Novocell has three primary technologies:
stem cell engineering, cell encapsulation and drug discovery. The Company
was founded in 1999 and merged with CyThera, Inc. and BresaGen, Inc.
in 2004. For more information, please visit www.novocell.com