Islet Cell Regeneration

The content for this column is provided by the Iacocca Foundation

A New Therapy for Diabetes

Jan 1, 2005

A new generation of therapies for type 1 diabetes is likely to come from within our own bodies. The idea of pancreatic islet regeneration as a therapy for diabetes first came to light back in 2001, and it is now a hot topic among researchers in the field.

What do we mean by regeneration?

Regeneration takes advantage of the body’s capacity for healing and renewal, assuming that the underlying problem of type 1 diabetes—the immune-cell attack on the islets in the pancreas—can be overcome. The work done at the Faustman laboratory over the past five years suggests that the diabetic pancreas has immense regenerative potential once the immune cells are stopped from attacking and destroying the islet cells. This approach is now coming to the forefront in diabetes research.

Over the past two years, a multitude of scientific papers have suggested that there are most likely many ways to regenerate these islet cells. A wide range of cell types and existing precursor cells exist, some in the pancreas and some in the spleen, in both normal mice and humans. If the capacity to regenerate can be harnessed to replenish insulin-producing islet cells that are destroyed by disease, then perhaps a “transplant” of stem cells or islets may not be needed.

Eliminating disease

As the Faustman laboratory moves forward, the goal will be to eliminate disease in humans with type 1 diabetes and to stop the immune-cell attack on the islets. Faustman’s research suggests that if the underlying disease is eliminated, regeneration can occur. If this is true in humans, successes with this approach could apply both to type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Disease elimination could uncover the remarkable process of self-healing, a process not previously considered as a potential avenue in the search for a cure for diabetes.

How Can I Help?

The cost of the first three years of clinical trials at Massachusetts General Hospital is estimated at $11 million. Contribute to the JoinLeeNow campaign and support these efforts to cure type 1 diabetes in humans. Donations may be made over the Internet or by mail.

Internet: To make a donation over the Internet, please visit and click on “Donate Now.”

U.S. Mail: To mail your donation, please make checks payable to “Iacocca Foundation.” Send donations to the following address:

The Iacocca Foundation
17 Arlington Street
Boston, MA 02116

Gifts: Give the gift of a donation to support important diabetes research. Donations can be made in a loved one’s name. For more information about gift-giving, go to or call Danielle Briscoe at (212) 255-5340.

Volunteer: For information on becoming a city captain and helping with local efforts to raise money for these research trials, or if you have other inquiries, please call Danielle Briscoe at (212) 255-5340 or send e-mail to

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Jan 1, 2005

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