New Drug May Restore Insulin-Growing Cells in Type 1 Diabetes Patients

A radical new game-changing drug that regrows lost insulin-making cells for type 1 diabetes patients is being tested in Cardiff, UK.
Mario L. Major

For the millions worldwide who live with Type 1 diabetes, the daily task of constantly maintaining or monitoring insulin levels, the hormone which regulates blood sugar levels, is a big job that relies on a disciplined and proactive approach for establishing good health. Of course, to help with this daily reality, a spate of devices and even a vaccine have been developed. 


A new drug that could be potentially game-changing in this area is currently being tested in Cardiff, Wales. It was designed to restore insulin-growing cells which have been lost over time in diabetes patients by stimulating growth. Specifically, it focuses on beta cells housed in the pancreas.

A country-specific approach

The project was organized by T1DUK, a UK-based consortium set up in 2015 exclusively for the purpose of creating and testing solutions aimed at the treatment and prevention of type 1 diabetes.

Among the 18 research centers covered under the organizations, Cardiff was no doubt chosen as the starting point as Wales shows the highest type 1 diabetes numbers in the whole of the UK: although only 7.3% of the 17 and over populations, type 1 patients account for a staggering 191,000, with an additional 540,000 identified as being at risk. 

Currently, only two patients have been administered the investigational drug; however, the results have been promising. “I’m really grateful that I was given the opportunity to take part in this study. I hope that my participation will help with the management of Type 1 diabetes for future generations," shared one of the two patients.

The experiments are being coordinated by the Clinical Research Facility (CRF) at Cardiff and Vale University Health Board (UHB).

A radical approach to type 1 diabetes treatment

Beyond a few minor side effects--which to date have not been identified--the holistic approach of harvesting and regrowing the precious cells will widen the scope of treatment options available when it is further developed.

Dr. Mohammad Alhadj Ali, sub-investigator working on the Cardiff study, explained how the drug promises to revolutionize the approach that healthcare professionals take towards managing and treating diabetes: “Despite everything achieved in diabetes care, advances in prevention haven’t really occurred. More insulin-producing beta cells are needed for those with this form of diabetes and it is estimated that 90% of patients with Type 1 diabetes have less than 5% of insulin-making cells left." 

Carys Thomas, interim Director of Health and Care Research Wales, spoke about how the work involving the clinical trials is an important step in getting the pharmaceuticals industry to take more notice of which type 1 diabetes options are being developed:

“It is essential that the NHS works closely with the pharmaceutical industry on research like this to develop drugs that could make a big difference to people’s lives. The Clinical Research Facility in Cardiff is not only leading the way in this ground-breaking study but the team’s hard work also shows that Wales is competing successfully on an international level to attract global pharmaceutical companies and commercial investment.”