It is estimated that there are more than 35 million patients with diabetes mellitus type 1 (DM1) worldwide. This form of diabetes is most prevalent in children and adolescents and since the 1980s, Mexico has witnessed a year on year increase in the incidence of DM1 such that it is now the most frequent metabolic disorder affecting infants. DM1 is, however, also increasing in the aging adult population. DM1 is thought to be caused by auto-immune destruction of the pancreatic islet beta cells that make insulin. Pancreas or pancreatic islet transplantation can reverse the diabetes in children soon after diagnosis and abrogate the need for insulin to maintain glucose homeostasis; it is the only option for those that do not respond to insulin treatment. Currently, Mexico does not have an islet transplant programme.
This collaboration aims to establish an islet transplant programme in Mexico and to increase research and innovation capacities to improve islet transplantation success in Mexico and the UK. It involves a partnership between Oxford Expression Technologies (OET), Oxford Brookes University (OBU) and the Oxford Islet Facility Consortium (OTC) in Oxford, UK and the Centre for Molecular & Cell-based Therapeutics (CMCBT), TEC de Monterrey (TEC) and the Organ Donor Network of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Mexico City.
The overall and long term goal is to increase the success of islet transplantation by pre-transplant gene therapy to reduce injury and immune-responses normally associated with isolation, preservation and transplantation procedures, and to use co-culture with stem cells to increase the number of insulin-secreting cells within the islets. Advances made will benefit the increasing numbers of DM1 patients in Mexico, the UK and world-wide. The associated aims are: to provide Mexican researchers with the necessary scientific and technical skills to establish an islet isolation and transplantation programme; to further develop and exploit insect viruses as gene therapy vectors building IP and technology transfer into new markets for the companies involved; and provide a vehicle for a long term, sustainable collaboration beyond the life of this project. The partnership builds on an existing collaboration between the academic institutions in the UK and Mexico.
In the longer term, the broader benefits of this project will be realised through establishment of a Collaborative Academic Centre Mexico-UK (CAMex-UK) in which Mexican and UK researchers can jointly design and develop innovative scientific projects that help resolve health challenges common to both Mexico and the UK and contribute to the welfare of British and Mexican societies. Industry partners will benefit from close involvement in testing innovative products and services in new international markets.