Diabetes mellitus type 1 (T1D) remains an incredibly complex and dynamic interchange of environmental, epigenetic, and genetic causes. Jordanian researchers are developing a novel treatment using autologous stem cell transplantation combined with immunomodulation to treat patients with T1D.
Embracing a minimally invasive approach in T1D
At the recent Alliance for the Advancement of Cellular Therapies (AACT) 2015 Conference, which highlights the progress and promise of regenerative medicine and cellular therapies, Adeeb Al-Zoubi, Ph.D,. a Clinical Assistant Professor at The University of Illinois College of Medicine (UIC) in Peoria and CEO of Stem Cells of Arabia in Amman, Jordan, and Brigadier General Dr. Hazem Habboub, Head of Radiology at The Royal Medical Services of Jordan, presented their initial findings from a clinical study treating patients with T1D.
Dr. Al-Zoubi and his team have developed a novel way to purify specific types of stem cells from diabetic patient's blood that are able to differentiate into insulin-secreting beta cells when transplanted into pancreatic tissues. The purified cells are then delivered to the pancreas using interventional radiology techniques under the guidance of Dr. Habboub and his team, using a novel method to implant the purified cells into micro-capillaries in the region of the pancreas richest in insulin production. This minimally invasive procedure does not require surgery or general anesthesia.
He added that, "This unique and sophisticated therapeutic approach supports beta cell regeneration, combined with the previously published immunomodulation protocol, utilizes cutting edge science and was carried out in collaborations with top scientists and medical professionals at The University of Illinois, The Royal Medical Services and the Al-Khaldi Hospital and Medical Center in Amman".
Developing safe and effective methods – building on a history of success
Dr. Al-Zoubi started working on this project 18 years ago at UIC during his Ph.D. training with Dr. Bellur Prabhakar at UIC. Their study was aimed at understanding the nature of the immune attack on the insulin secreting beta cells in the pancreas that lead to the development of T1D. Further research showed that it was possible to stop the immune attack on pancreatic beta cells through immunomodulation. Dr. Zhao–now Clinical Professor at Hackensack Medical University–further demonstrated the capacity of specific stem cells to differentiate into insulin secreting beta cells.
Envisaging the future of treatment of patients with T1D
Dr. Al-Zoubi explained what these initial findings mean for clinicians and clarified how they should manage patient expectations. “It means there is hope for T1D patients to be treated in the future. However, this treatment is still at the clinical trial phase and is not approved as a standard method of treatment. For clinicians, it means to expect some good news for their patients within the upcoming few months… We still need to follow up the treated patients to collect enough data and publish them.”
For patients reading or hearing about this novel treatment, Dr. Al-Zoubi said, “We advise the clinicians to specifically inform the patients that this treatment is still at the clinical trial phase, and the research team in Jordan is working to bring this research to the United States.”
Collaborative efforts are continuing with planned expansion of clinical trials to treat patients with T1D in the U.S.