In celebration of World Diabetes Day (14th November 2017) Diabetes and Stem Cells was launched. This 15-minute film was the result of a collaboration between HumEn and EuroStemCell, two EU-funded research partnerships.
The documentary tells the story of how scientists are exploring the possibility of using lab grown cells as a therapy for those affected by diabetes. It includes hand-drawn animations by award-winning animator Cameron Duguid, footage of HumEn scientists and labs and young people from Diabetes UK.
The film was launched in Edinburgh and Paris:
This public event attracted a diverse, mixed audience of about 60 people. The positive ambience encouraged a very open discussion after the film premiere. The audience’s questions were insightful and stimulated invigorating discussion about the genetic and environmental risk factors for type 1 and type 2 diabetes, stem cell research and future perspectives:
How are skin cells reprogrammed into pancreatic beta cells?
Will soon be possible to create entire pancreases from stem cells?
What causes different types of diabetes?
One of the take-home messages was this: Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition, so any cells made from an individual’s own cells for transplant may still be attacked by the immune system. To prevent this, immunosuppression would still be needed. Therefore one of the focuses for research is the development of robust methods for protecting these insulin-secreting cells from immune attack through encapsulation.
Overall, there was great feedback from the audience. For example, two parents of teenagers with diabetes who said that the film and Q&A were really well pitched to a lay audience. One secondary school teacher said that stem cell research is now part of the curriculum, and the film is just what she needs for her teaching.
Ainsley Duncan, who has Type 1 diabetes and is a Diabetes UK Volunteer, said that it was good to be involved in something so positive, both in making the film and being on the panel for this event, as often what she sees and hears about diabetes on the news and social media is negative and this project was different.
Ever since last year looking round the Edinburgh labs I have decided to seek a career in stem cell research as I believe it has such potential, not just for people with diabetes so hopefully I will be able to contribute even more one day.
Ainsley DuncanDiabetes UK Volunteer with Type 1 diabetes
The Q&A panel consisted of the following members:
Dr Cathy Southworth, Science Engagement Manager, HumEn, MRC CRM, University of Edinburgh
Professor Wendy Bickmore, HumEn, MRC HGU Director, IGMM, University of Edinburgh
Dr Mairead Bermingham, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, CGEM, IGMM, University of Edinburgh
Dr Shareen Forbes, Reader in Diabetes and Endocrinology & Lead Physician Islet Transplant Programme Scotland, BHF Centre for Cardiovascular Science, University of Edinburgh
Cameron Duguid, Film maker & documentary animator
Ainsley Duncan, Young person with Type 1 Diabetes, Diabetes UK Volunteer
In collaboration with Revive, Stem Cells and Diabetes was shown together with the film Pour quelques barres de chocolat. The event attracted around 50 people with passionate and invigorating discussion afterwards.