Advancing Diabetes Cell Therapies

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UHN investigator receives CIHR-JDRF funding to advance stem-cell therapies for type 1 diabetes.
Posted On: December 09, 2020
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Dr. Maria Cristina Nostro, Senior Scientist at McEwen Stem Cell Institute.

Dr. Maria Cristina Nostro, Senior Scientist at McEwen Stem Cell Institute, was awarded a $3 million team grant jointly funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) Canada to accelerate the development of stem cell-based therapies for patients living with type 1 diabetes.

Dr. Nostro’s research team will study the use of universal donor stem cells to generate cell-based therapies that will minimize or eliminate the need for immune suppression after transplantation. “The goal of this proposal is to have a single product available to everyone living with type 1 diabetes,” said Dr. Nostro.

This proposed study also aims to alleviate some of the existing obstacles to transplantation by devising strategies to amplify the number of cells capable of producing insulin and to enhance the durability and functionality of the cells after transplantation.

“Stem cell therapies have shown great promise as a source of insulin-producing cells and a potential pathway to a cure,” said Dave Prowten, President and CEO of JDRF Canada, at the funding announcement. “On the eve of the hundredth anniversary of the discovery of insulin in Toronto, we are a step closer to making this a reality.”

Dr. Nostro will lead an expert team of multidisciplinary scientists—including Dr. Sara Vasconcelos (Scientist, Toronto General Hospital Research Institute), Dr. Andrew Pepper (Assistant Professor, University of Alberta), Dr. Dan Drucker (Senior Scientist, Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute) and Dr. Gregory Korbutt (Professor, University of Alberta)—with expertise in stem cell biology, vascular biology, islet transplantation and beta cell biology.

This funding was one of two national grants provided by the CIHR-JDRF Partnership to Defeat Diabetes and was established as part of the 100 Years of Insulin: Accelerating Canadian Discoveries to Defeat Diabetes initiative, which was established to promote research in the following three areas: (1) understanding how diabetes develops and progresses; (2) advancing solutions for the prevention, treatment and delivery of care for diabetes patients; and (3) developing models of care for First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples.