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Towards stem cell transplantation for diabetes type 1



To celebrate the 10th anniversary, foundation DON is helping to make groundbreaking new research possible for which Dutch academic top institutes (Maastricht University, Leiden University Medical Center, the Hubrecht Institute and Eindhoven University of Technology) join forces. Together, they develop a new therapy for curing diabetes type 1. Innovative developments from scientific research are combined to find a solution for diabetes type 1.

Diabetes type 1

In The Netherlands, over 100,000 people have diabetes type 1. Diabetes type 1 is an auto-immune disease where the body largely destroys the insulin-producing beta cells that jointly form the Islets of Langerhans. The Islets of Langerhans in the pancreas are responsible for the insulin production. Due to this error of the patient’s own immune system, no or hardly any insulin is produced. As a result, people with diabetes type 1 must daily, at set times, inject insulin to maintain the blood glucose levels.


Transplantation of the complete pancreas or only of the Islets of Langerhands appears to be a good treatment option for patients with diabetes type 1. However, only a very small amount of patients are eligible for this due to a lack of organ donors and the necessary immune inhibiting medication that patients have to take all their lives to prevent rejection of the cells of the pancreas or islets. As a result, a pancreas or islets transplantation is currently only meant for patients with serious complications and patients who are unable to properly maintain their blood sugars.

With all the knowledge we obtained in recent years, we are now at the dawn of clinical translations. The research into a new transplantation method is a prime example of this. Knowledge is being shared and forces are being bundled, allowing us to most likely make a step towards the patient within five years. Pieter Akkerman

Board member (research)

Joining forces

The Hubrecht Institute is working hard to making the Islets of Langerhans from stem cells. If this works, the amount of islets for transplantation is unlimited and you are no longer dependent on donors. Maastricht Univeristy is specialised in ‘tissue engineering’ for maintaining and repairing tissue. They possess the knowledge to use biomaterials to develop carrying constructions for cells in which the islets can be packaged so that they are no longer attacked by the immune system, comparable to a tea bag. The Leiden University Medical Center is specialized in the transplantation of the Islets of Langerhans and the implementations of new cell therapies. In The Netherlands, the Leiden University Medical Center is the only one executing transplantations of the Islets of Langerhans.

By joining the forces of these Dutch academic top institutes, fundamental research is implemented into new therapy, enabling many patients of diabetes type 1 to be cured in the future. The goal of foundation DON.

Help us take the next step, the step to a cure.


RegMed XB

The Dutch academic top institutes will collaborate in the new institute for regenerative medicine: RegMed XB. In RegMed XB, health funds, scientists, entrepreneurs and doctors are working together on behalf of their own institutes. In addition to diabetes type 1, these collaborations work towards a solution for kidney diseases and arthrosis. Regenerative medicine has the objective of repairing sick or damaged tissues and organs. As a result, diseases that are now chronic might become curable in the future. The Netherlands is among one of the best countries in the world with regards to regenerative medicine.