New diabetes research centre opens in Newcastle

By Editor
12th May 2017

A pioneering diabetes research centre which will focus on islet cell transplantation has opened in Newcastle.

The Newcastle Isolation and Innovation Hub is a laboratory based at Newcastle University and the team there will be focusing their energies on testing new drugs for people with type 1 diabetes.

James Shaw, professor of regenerative medicine for diabetes at Newcastle University and honorary consultant physician at Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, who is leading the Hub, said: “We hope that the research we are doing will one day mean that eventually insulin won’t be required for any type of diabetes.

“Our first goal is to pioneer islet cell transplant therapy for diabetes delivering long-term freedom from insulin injections without the need for toxic anti-rejection drugs.

“In parallel, the Hub will provide scientists with human islet cells to gain a deeper understanding of the effects of diabetes on the pancreas with the aim of finding curative new drug treatments.”

The Newcastle Isolation and Innovation Hub is based within the city’s NHS Blood and Transplant Centre on Barrack Road and is one of the first of its kind in the UK.

Tissue and high quality islet cells from donated pancreases will be generated from donor organs within the Hub for researchers of the Regenerative Medicine for Diabetes group at Newcastle University.

Engineers and molecular biologists will collaborate with other experts with the aim of making cell transplantation a safe, routine procedure for people with type diabetes at highest risk of complications.

Islet cell transplantation involves taking cells from a donated pancreas and transplanting them into the patient and the recipient must then take anti-rejection drugs.

Professor Shaw said: “The overarching goal is to develop new tablet treatments which will enable cells in the pancreas to start making insulin again. We aim to provide a unique bank of pancreas tissue and cells obtained from people with diabetes.

“Our research and clinical practice has been building towards this service for the last 15 years which will benefit scientists working towards a cure throughout the UK and the rest of the world.”

A core team of three researchers will work at the Hub and collaborate with bioengineers internationally to design new state-of-the art equipment for islet cell transplantation.

Helen Gavillet, research technician at Newcastle Isolation and Innovation Hub, said: “We will now have access to the highest quality human cells and will be able to put these to excellent use to help push research into type 1 diabetes forwards.”

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