Breakthrough diabetes cell transplant gives hope

A Healthy You

64-year-old Brian Shelton has lived with type-1 diabetes for more than 40 years, 15 years with dangerous episodes of hypoglycemia.

“You spend your entire life, every minute of the day trying to keep track of where your numbers are at,” said Shelton, “Did I eat, did I not eat?”

Sometimes, when his blood sugar dropped, he says he’d lose consciousness without warning.

“I shovel down the snow, and when I got inside the garage, my number crashed and I went face first into the concrete.”

But now, Brian’s life has changed, after becoming the first participant in a groundbreaking new clinical trial.

“I feel like I got released from handcuffs. I’m not sitting here like ‘Where’s my orange juice? Where’s my pills? Where’s my shot?’ You know, it’s like I don’t need them.”

Felicia Pagluica heads up the type-1 diabetes program at Vertex Pharmaceuticals. Using a discovery made by Harvard Professor Dr. Douglas Melton, the pioneering work here targets the root cause of the disease.

In people with type-1 diabetes, the body attacks the cells in the pancreas that create insulin, but with this new treatment, the patient receives an infusion of new cells, grown from stem cells, that help to restore the body’s natural ability to create and regulate that insulin. Essentially giving the body back the cells it lost.

“Brian’s results are nothing short of remarkable,” says Pagluica. “We’ve seen improvements in his glucose control, improvements in his need for insulin, improvements in his ability to make insulin on his own, because those cells are there. We have a lot of work to do with this data, it gives us great confidence.”

Brian says he can now go days without taking insulin and no longer fears those sudden dangerous crashes.

“Now I can do yard work without having to worry about my numbers going too high or too low,” said Brian. “All of my numbers are right in line and just seeing that you know makes me feel great. I feel like I’m getting another chance at life.

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