ViaCyte’s stem cell replacement therapy for the treatment of type 1 diabetes was highlighted in a June 2012 Popular Science article on artificial organs. The ViaCyte device, known as the Encaptra® drug delivery system, holds PEC-01TM cells. Together, PEC-01 cells in the Encaptra device comprise the VC-01™ product currently being tested in people with type 1 diabetes. PEC-01 cells are pancreatic progenitor cells derived from human stem cells that are expected to become insulin-producing beta cells and other cells of the pancreatic islet upon implant. The device is designed to protect the cells from destruction by the immune system and is semi-permeable, allowing insulin and other factors like glucagon and somatostatin to be released into the circulation when blood glucose levels vary. In this way, VC-01 is expected to mimic the natural processes of the pancreas.
As the article points out, scientists have been working for decades to understand how best to hide cells in permeable capsules and avoid the immune rejection problem. In 2014, we began clinical trials with the VC-01 product candidate. VC-01 is the first stem cell-derived islet replacement therapy for the treatment of diabetes to reach clinical testing.