In the last 20 years, a vast amount of scientific knowledge has been gathered about how insulin-producing cells develop, function and survive in the normal human body and how they become compromised and destroyed in diabetic patients. In recent years, interest in diabetes has intensified because it is nearing epidemic proportions: in 1985 there were 30 million diabetics; today that number has rocketed to more than 194 million. By 2025, diabetes is likely to affect 300 million people worldwide.
The need for a functional cure is critical and the most promising treatment for controlling diabetes is to replace the destroyed insulin-producing cells with functional islet cells through transplantation that are immune to destruction.
To hasten this possibility, researchers from three continents have come together to form the Chicago Diabetes Project—a group of highly qualified scientists and their teams who have committed themselves to achieving a functional cure for diabetes in the next few years.
Coordinated by Dr. Jose Oberholzer, director of cell and pancreas transplantation at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, Chicago Diabetes Project leaders strongly believe that the scientific community now has all the necessary ingredients to make cell-based therapy of diabetes an option for the majority of diabetic patients. Chicago Diabetes Project team members are using a collaborative model to achieve a cure. By freely exchanging knowledge, team members have created a scientific alliance between institutions—a coalition that will provide for more direct and noncompetitive funding to accelerate finding a functional cure for diabetes.