Skip to main content

New Center to Research Stem Cell Cures for Type 1 Diabetes

By Kelly Close, Ursula Biba, Martin Kurian, and Eliza Skoler

A collaboration between JDRF, Stanford, and UCSF aims to cure type 1 diabetes through understanding of stem cells and the immune system

JDRF just announced a new partnership with Stanford and the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) to create the JDRF Northern California Center of Excellence. The goal of the Center is to research and develop cures for type 1 diabetes that use stem cells to produce insulin. Stem cells are cells that have the potential to develop into many different types of cells in the human body – like the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas!

More specifically, this partnership aims to develop a stem cell-based cure for type 1 diabetes that does not require the suppression of the immune system (immunosuppression). Sometimes, the immune system must be “shut down” so that it does not fight against a potentially helpful, but new group of cells (like a new kidney after a kidney transplant, or new stem cells). The JDRF partnership with Stanford and UCSF will focus on understanding the relationships between the immune system and the pancreas to create stem cell-based cures for type 1 diabetes that do not require immunosuppression.  

This is important because the immune system is the cellular machinery inside our bodies that allows us to fight infections and diseases. When the immune system is shut down, it can no longer protect against infections. This is exactly what the Center is working to avoid in cell replacement drugs.

The Center will use the Stanford model for kidney transplantation without immunosuppression and the UCSF method for making insulin-producing cells out of stem cells. Together these inventive technologies can hopefully help develop stem cell cures for type 1 diabetes that do not shut down the immune system.

As such a high-impact nonprofit, JDRF’s role is to support the highly collaborative research process. The Center will be run by well-known leaders including Dr. Matthias Hebrok (UCSF), Dr. Seung Kim (Stanford), Dr. Aaron Kowalski (JDRF President and CEO), Dr. Andrew Rakeman (JDRF AVP of Research), and Dr. Jeffrey Bluestone (UCSF). JDRF is currently leading funding efforts for the Center and has committed to funding the first five years of operation. Wow!

Many of the lead scientists have received JDRF grants that helped make type 1 diabetes research their career focus; it goes without saying that the leadership of Dr. Aaron Kowalski at JDRF was absolutely key to putting this new Center in place, as was the support of many families committed to making JDRF successful.

We are so grateful to see this inventive collaboration being driven forward; thank you to JDRF for creating the model. We are hopeful for progress on cures for type 1 diabetes.

Share this article