Gene and Cell-Replacement Therapy in the Treatment of Type 1 Diabetes

How High Must the Standards Be Set?

  1. Philippe A. Halban1,
  2. Steven E. Kahn2,
  3. Åke Lernmark3 and
  4. Christopher J. Rhodes4
  1. 1Louis-Jeantet Research Laboratories, University Medical Center, Geneva, Switzerland
  2. 2Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology and Nutrition, Department of Medicine, VA Puget Sound Health Care System and University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
  3. 3Robert H. Williams Laboratory, Department of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
  4. 4Pacific Northwest Research Institute, Seattle, Washington


    Recent advances in molecular and cell biology may allow for the development of novel strategies for the treatment and cure of type 1 diabetes. In particular, it is now possible to envisage restoration of insulin secretion by gene or cell-replacement therapy. The β-cell is, however, remarkably sophisticated, and many of the features of this highly differentiated secretory cell will have to be faithfully mimicked in surrogate cells. In particular, insulin is normally secreted in a well-regulated fashion in rapid response to the metabolic needs of the individual and most specifically (but not exclusively) to changes in circulating levels of glucose. Such regulated secretion will be indispensable in order to avoid both hyper- and hypoglycemic episodes and depends on the ability of cells to store insulin in secretory granules before exocytosis in response to physiological stimuli. Furthermore, any newly created insulin-secreting cell will have to be able to adapt to alterations in insulin requirements that accompany changes with exercise, body weight, and aging. Fine tuning of insulin secretion over the longer term will also be important to avoid “clinical shifting” that could be caused by over-insulinization, including increased adiposity and cardiovascular disease. Finally, it will be necessary to ensure that newly created or implanted (surrogate) β-cells are protected in some way from recognition by the immune system and in particular from autoimmune destruction.


    • Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. Philippe A. Halban, Laboratoires Jeantet, Centre Médical Universitaire, 1 rue Michel Servet, 1211 Geneva 4, Switzerland. E-mail: philippe.halban{at}

      Received for publication 20 June 2001 and accepted in revised form 1 August 2001.

      GIP, glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide; GLP-1, glucagon-like peptide 1; TGN, trans-Golgi network.

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