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JDRF Supports Islet Sheet with Grant to Lakey Encapsulation Research

June 14, 2013

This spring, Dr. Jonathan R. T. Lakey, a principal collaborator in the Islet Sheet Project, was awarded a major grant by JDRF (formerly the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) to study encapsulated islet transplantation over the next three years. Dr. Lakey is Associate Professor of Surgery and Biomedical Engineering and Director of Research and Clinical Islet Program at the University of California, Irvine, where he leads a group that is renowned for its work on isolating and transplanting islets for the treatment of type 1 diabetes. The grant will provide funding up to approximately $1.27 million over the three years. Read the UCI Irvine press release.

Research covered by the grant will include further investigation of the Islet Sheet, a proprietary technology of Islet Sheet Medical, San Francisco. The Islet Sheet consists of a layer of human islets macroencapsulated within a membrane of ultra-pure alginate. Oxygen, glucose, and other nutrients diffuse readily into the sheet, keeping the islets alive; insulin, hormones, and waste products diffuse out. The Islet Sheet may be removed or replaced at any time. The sheet membrane is treated to prevent contact between the islets inside and the diabetic host’s destructive immune mechanisms, so that except for a brief period after transplantation, no immune suppression drugs are needed.

With support chiefly from Hanuman Medical Foundation (HMF), and using islets supplied by Dr. Lakey’s laboratory, Islet Medical has developed the Islet Sheet to the current stage of trials in large animals. “We believe that this support from JDRF for Dr. Lakey’s work with islets will help the project progress more quickly to clinical trials,” said John Golenski, executive director of HMF. 

Dr. Jonathan Lakey’s primary research direction has been cell and tissue transplantation, with a focus on diabetes and islet transplantation. At the University of Alberta, Edmonton, his partnership with Dr. James Shapiro led to improved islet isolation techniques and development in 2000 of the “Edmonton Protocol,” a recognized major advance in the treatment of type 1 diabetes. A sought-after speaker in the field of diabetes, islet transplantation, and regulatory standards for cell and tissue transplantation, Dr. Lakey has been widely published and received numerous honors, including the UC Discovery Award. His team has successfully trained over 40 islet transplant centers worldwide in replicating the Edmonton Protocol. 

About his collaboration with the Islet Sheet Project, Lakey says, “Perhaps the greatest need in the field of islet transplantation is to make the metabolic benefits available to patients with type 1 diabetes, without the need for chronic immunosuppression. My long commitment to working with the Islet Sheet technology speaks to my belief in its promise for realizing that goal. And this welcome support from JDRF should speed our progress.”