Dr Philip Toleikis, Sernova, Cell Pouch technology, islet cell transplants, glucose responsive techn




In January 1922 insulin was

first used in the treatment

of diabetes. Insulin was

discovered by Sir Frederick

Banting, Charles Best and JJR

Macleod at the University of Toronto in

1921 and it was subsequently purified

by James Collip. Before 1921, it was

exceptional for people with Type 1

diabetes to live more than a year or two

after diagnosis. One of the twentieth

century's greatest medical discoveries,

insulin remains the only effective treatment

for people with Type 1 diabetes today.*

Ever since the key discovery of insulin,

people with Type 1 diabetes have been

taking insulin by injections or infusions.

Recently, however, researchers in the

regenerative medicine field have been

looking to replace the islets (also simply

referred to as 'cells') that have stopped

functioning in the pancreas in people

with diabetes using donor islets and

other insulin producing cells. While there

have been a number of quite successful

islet cell transplant operations using the

Edmonton Protocol (see glossary), not

all the transplanted islets survive. Many

die, leaving only a portion functioning

often requiring more than one transplant,

suggesting that the outcome of these

operations are not as effective as they

need to be. The operations are also

costly and only a small number of people

with diabetes can be helped, as islets

come from human donors and there are

An interview with Dr. Philip Toleikis of Sernova Corp, Canada,

about the company's Cell Pouch and immune protected cell

technologies. By Sue Marshall

only enough donors to treat a fraction

of people with diabetes. One Company

looking into improving the survival of

transplanted islets cells and in securing

unlimited supplies of insulin producing

cells is Sernova.

Speaking on behalf of the company,

Dr. Philip Toleikis explains, "Sernova

looked at the results of islet cell transplants

that have been undertaken and asked the

question, 'how can we create a proper

environment for islets to survive?" What

we have created is an implantable device,

roughly the size and shape of a business

card, called a Cell Pouch. It is implanted

under the skin then the person's own

tissue grows through the pores of the

device and creates 'vascularized (blood

vessel rich) tissue chambers' into which

it is then possible to transplant islet cells.

The cells in the pouch live in a tissue

matrix and are supported by the blood

vessels within the tissue chambers, similar

to islets in the pancreas."

The Cell Pouch System is for the

placement and survival of donor islets and

other therapeutic cells. The other part of

this equation is that the donor cells need

protection from immune system attack so

that they are not rejected. Says Toleikis,

"In addition to providing natural home for

the islet cells, we can protect the cells

with medications that the patient takes

and are also developing a technology

called 'microcapsules' which surround

the cells to protect them from immune

system attack when they are placed into

the device chambers. Thus we believe

our device technologies form an ideal

environment for islets to survive and


Good progress

For use with the Cell Pouch, islets are

taken from a donor and purified, then

transplanted into the device chambers

or micro-encapsulated and put into the

tissue chambers of the device. Says

Toleikis, "We have found the quality

and purity of the islets is an important

factor in functioning of the cells. The

micro-encapsulated islets are immuneprotected,

meaning that we believe

patients will not not need to take

immunosuppressant drugs."

He continues, "Our goal, beyond

working with donor islets is to source

unlimited supplies of cells. These may be

a stem cell derived glucose responsive

technology or cells from a xenogeneic

source. Our primary aim is to provide a

significant improvement in the quality-oflife of people with diabetes.

"We have made good progress and

have learnt from our work with donor islets.

What we've been able to show with this

work is that by using fewer islets in this

system than the Edmonton Prototocol,

we've actually produced a more effective

solution. A smaller dose of islets indicates

that the device is efficient, more efficient

than islets being transplanted into the liver,


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  3. Desang diabetes magazine diabetes information, Sue Marshall
  4. diabetes news, novo nordisk insulin fiasp
  5. diabetes news, Medtronic, Medtronic Guardian Connect, BiAP
  6. diabetes news, Dr John Fossey, glucose
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  8. diabetes care, pocket medic, Kimberley Littlemore, Type 2 diabetes
  9. diabetes care, pocket medic, Kimberley Littlemore, Type 2 diabetes
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  18. Sue Marshall diabetes Professor Nick Oliver Imperial College London
  19. Professor Nick Oliver Imperial College London, BiAP, bio-inspired artificial pancreas, ABC4D, Chris
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  21. Dr Philip Toleikis, Sernova, Cell Pouch technology, islet cell transplants, glucose responsive techn
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