Last December, our local JDRF chapter had a research forum with a guest speaker from the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation. It was an awesome presentation by one of the researchers who works directly on JDRF funded projects at their lab in La Jolla, CA.
Information on JDRF funded beta cell therapies http://www.jdrf.org/index.cfm?page_id=113244 Two New Partnerships in Regeneration Help Drive Towards a Cure Faster
Information on JDRF/GNF Collaboration http://www.gnf.org/collaborations/jdrf/
At the end of his presentation he had mentioned that if any of us would like to come down to the lab for a visit, he would be happy to show us around.
Well….it took 6 months, but my husband and I finally were able to take our grandson (who has Type 1) and his sister, our granddaughter (my baker) down to La Jolla for a tour of the lab last week!
What a fantastic experience it was to see, first hand, some of the great things JDRF funded research is doing to find a cure!
One of the main JDRF funded projects that GNF is working on is “beta cell regeneration and SURVIVAL”. They have modified robots that were originally used in the automotive industry to assemble cars, to enable testing of thousands of compounds at a time on donated pancreas cells. Basically the robots take a modified petri dish approximately 4″ x 5″ that has 1400 wells in it…that’s right 1400 wells in a 4″ x 5″ rectangular plate.. The robots then dispenses beta cells into each well, and then adds a different compound or combination of compounds into each one of those wells. After each step, the robot weighs the dish and then places it in an incubator to grow. After the desired time…the robot takes the plate out and places it under a microscope and each of the 1400 wells is photographed and analyzed by the computer. There is certain criteria that needs to be met…the computer then analyzes the information and any promising results are noted and mapped and will then each of those wells will be looked at by the researchers one at a time.
To see just a hint of what these robots look like and the plates that hold these precious cells..please follow this link
then go to “video” and click on slides “00 thru 04” to get a taste of our tour (slide 04 is showing one of the petri plates being filled with beta cells).
Of the 1400 cultures in each plate…less than 1% of them meet the requirements to even consider continuing to follow it’s results. It is beyond looking for a needle in a haystack, and yet these dedicated researchers are beyond committed. They work tirelessly day in and day out to find that one link that will lead us to a cure! They are never without their cell phone and pagers. When they get a call that there is a donor pancreas on route they drop whatever they are doing and head for the lab. It makes no difference what time of the day or night it is…they know there is a very small window in which they can preserve the beta cells and they don’t waste one minute or one beta cell!
They have had some very exciting results and are very encouraged that, in the very near future, there will be some sort of therapy (whether it be a pill you take or some other treatment) that will help prevent the immune system from attacking the beta cells, and a bit farther down the road, there will be some form of drug treatment that will regenerate beta cells and those cells will be protected from destruction!!
This is just one of the many research institutes that JDRF is collaborating with. I was able to see their enthusiasm and dedication and it gave me even more encouragement that a cure for diabetes will happen…Just not as soon as any of us would like!