Michael Sefton aims to eradicate diabetes

Michael SeftonType 1 diabetes, which afflicts roughly 8.4 million people worldwide, was almost invariably fatal before insulin was discovered in 1921. With injections of this metabolism-regulating hormone, type 1 diabetes has become a manageable condition. But it’s still life-altering. Michael Sefton, ScD ’74, wants to eradicate diabetes completely.

“That is emerging as our big, audacious goal,” says Sefton, a professor of biomedical engineering and chemical engineering at the University of Toronto and executive director of Medicine by Design, a hub that links researchers at both the university and affiliated hospitals who are working to achieve breakthroughs in regenerative medicine. “Give us 20 years.”

Already, Sefton has made significant progress. He was among the first to combine living cells with synthetic polymers in an effort to treat diabetes by transplanting insulin-producing cells. Since such cells are normally rejected by the body, Sefton developed an artificial membrane designed to encapsulate the implanted cells and thus create a barrier to the immune response. Read the full MIT News story.