A Clinical Trial in South America to Cure Diabetes

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Jonathan LakeyJonathan Lakey is on a mission: freeing people with Type 1 diabetes from daily insulin injections and developing a long-term treatment for this devastating chronic disease that afflicts about 33 million people worldwide.

In his lab, the UCI professor of surgery and biomedical engineering is creating cell clusters called islets (right), which can be transplanted into the pancreas to stimulate insulin production without immune system rejection. The cells, cultivated from a pig’s pancreas, show promise but have yet to be approved in the U.S. for patient studies. (Lakey is also working on manipulating human stem cells into islets.)

So Lakey is collaborating with scientists and surgeons at Argentina’s Eva Perón Hospital and the National University of General San Martín, which have received government approval and financial support to transplant Lakey’s distinctive islet cells into Type 1 diabetics.

The Buenos Aires team first contacted Lakey last year after hearing of his work, and together they’re establishing a clinical trial that also can meet U.S. Food & Drug Administration standards for safety and efficacy. That way, Lakey adds, a successful treatment trial in Argentina can be replicated here. “This could put us years ahead of the curve,” he says.