Filming the ViaCyte Type 1 Cell Experiment

Research into possible functional cures for Type 1 diabetes is often open-ended, with no guarantee of success. The same can be said of documentary filmmaking, since the outcome of the story being told is often unknown when filming begins. A documentary in progress happens to combine the uncertainty of both endeavors in one project.

Lisa Hepner is a director of documentary films, and she has Type 1 diabetes. As she was recovering at the hospital in 2008 from a dangerous nighttime low, her business partner (and now husband) Guy Mossman said to her, “We should make a film about diabetes.”

By 2011, having moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, they began educating themselves about the medical research business, searching for a diabetes documentary project, and talking with medical researchers and people with diabetes who might be willing to come in front of their cameras. They found the opportunity in a stem cell implantation trial being organized in 2013 in San Diego.

“The public still knows very little about diabetes,” Hepner said in a telephone interview.

She and producer Angel Castillo believe that as treatment devices like pumps become smaller, and insulin pens make injections easier, it all makes daily maintenance more discrete, ultimately allowing a national public health problem such as diabetes to remain curtained in misunderstanding.

“That’s the great irony of it,” Castillo added.

019_filming_the_type1_viacyte__stemcell_300pxTheir non-profit company, Tenth Muse Films, hopes to raise the curtain in 2017 on The Human Trial, a film that will showcase the need for sustained philanthropic investment to bring about breakthrough technologies, in this case the implantation of pancreatic cells. Their first project is focused on ViaCyte, a San Diego biotech which is trying to use a novel approach to implant pancreatic progenitor cells into people with diabetes that will mature into functional beta cells. (The filmmakers have no affiliation nor financial connection with any of the companies or entities appearing in the film.)

ViaCyte is testing a product identified as a VC-01 combination device. It’s a mesh pouch encapsulated in a pliable membrane which allows hormones, metabolic fluids, and oxygen to migrate, but resists immune system T-cell invasion. T-cells in people with Type 1 often target implanted beta cells, making beta cell transplant a very frustrating treatment option.

The VC-01, dubbed the “teabag”, is designed to stop this destructive process. The pouch holds clusters of immature cells deigned to mature to produce insulin, glucagon, and hormones. It’s about the length and thickness of a credit card, but half the width. Surgeons at UC San Diego and the University of Alberta have begun implanting it in live test subjects. ViaCyte foresees six implantations of its VC-01 pouch in each patient to accomplish restoration of pancreatic function.

The cells ViaCyte uses originated with a single line of stem cells material harvested from an in vitro fertilization. Theoretically, this material, through laboratory regeneration, has the ability to supply hundreds of thousands of Type 1 patients with beta cells. If the cells mature once introduced to the body, there is the potential that this technology could benefit every person with Type 1 in the world. ViaCyte is careful to point out in its public communications and the film in progress that its cell material is not harvested from aborted fetal tissue.

ViaCyte characterizes its trial as a test of safety, tolerability, and ability of the cells to remain protected from the immune system. The FDA record of ViaCyte’s FDA submission also lists efficacy among its objectives.

ViaCyte’s FDA filing discloses a four-year time frame for implantation in a total of forty patients in the California and Alberta cohorts. In the U.S., it can take $5 billion to bankroll research and development of a drug or device, shepherd it through conventional, statistically measured, phased clinical trials, and only then take its chances at success on the U.S. market. When ViaCyte submitted its FDA filing in September 2014, only two other embryonic stem cell human trials had ever been given the green light in the U.S., and only five others in the world. FDA granted expedited review of the proposal, and cleared the human trial in 2014. Canada followed with its go-ahead in January of 2015. At the time we spoke with the filmmakers in late 2015, one American and two Canadian patients had undergone the implant surgery.

The film project, The Human Trial, doesn’t follow a screenplay with a happy ending. The filmmakers are working without any guarantee that their venture will break even. For Tenth Muse Films, it’s a pro bono mission, Castillo says, which is now entering its third year. Once the surgical trials commenced, the shooting schedule essentially went out the window.

“We‘re filming in real time, as progress is made. So we don’t know what the end point for filming is,” Lepner says. “There’s a tipping point out there, and we are someday going to have to decide that the film is ready for release.”

To see the trailer for the work in progress, go to The Human Trial.

Editor’s Note – This article has been edited to clarify that Tenth Muse Films is not financially or otherwise connected to the ViaCyte company. Also, an earlier version of this article incorrectly named Vox Pop Films as the non-profit funding the documentary; Vox Pop is actually one of several production companies working on this documentary.

Editor’s Note (3/1/2016) – We were contacted by Dr. Brandon after this story had been published, who asked for several clarifications. Chiefly, it was asked that a distinction be made between the cells being used. They are progenitor cells, not stem cells; the two types of cells are very similar, but progenitor cells are more further developed than stem cells. When there was a factual difference between what was said in the story and the edits asked for by Dr. Brandon, we have edited the story to incorporate Dr. Brandon’s changes.

Editor’s Note (3/10/2016) – All quotes or comments from Dr. Brandon have been removed. 

Thanks for reading this Insulin Nation article. Want more Type 1 news? Subscribe here.

Have Type 2 diabetes or know someone who does? Try Type 2 Nation, our sister publication.

Jim Cahill is a former staff writer for Insulin Nation and a former editor of Type 2 nation.

Related Articles


  1. Today, I went to the beach with mmy children. I found a sea shell and gave itt to my 4 year old daughter and
    said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She put
    the shell to her ear and screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched hher ear.
    She never wants to ggo back! LoL I know this is completely off topic but
    I had to tell someone!

  2. “Great blog here! Also your web site loads up fast! What host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to your host? I wish my website loaded up as fast as yours lol”

  3. “I have been browsing online more than three hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It’s pretty worth enough for me. In my opinion, if all web owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the web will be a lot more useful than ever before.”

  4. With havin so much content and articles ddo you ever run into any problems of plagorism or copyright infringement?

    My site has a lot of unique content I’ve eithger created myself or outsourced but iit appears a
    lot off it is popping it up all over the web without
    my permission. Do you knnow any methods to help stop content fro being ripoped off?
    I’d drfinitely appreciate it.

  5. 787774 632038An intriguing discussion will likely be worth comment. Im confident that you need to have to write far more about this topic, it may well not be a taboo topic but typically consumers are too few to chat on such topics. To another. Cheers 173187

  6. Hmm is anyone else having problems with the images on this blog loading?
    I’m trying to find out if its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog.
    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  7. Oh my goodness! Awesome article dude! Thanks, However I am having difficulties with your RSS. I don’t know why I can’t subscribe to it. Is there anybody else having the same RSS problems? Anybody who knows the solution will you kindly respond? Thanks!!

  8. whoah this blog is fantastic i love studying your articles.
    Keep up the good work! You recognize, lots of people are hunting round for this information, you could aid them greatly.

  9. I’m gone to tell my little brother, that he should also
    visit this webpage on regular basis to get updated from most up-to-date news update.

  10. Hiya very nice blog!! Man .. Beautiful .. Superb .. I’ll bookmark your site and take the feeds
    additionally? I’m happy to search out a lot of helpful info right here in the submit,
    we need develop extra techniques on this regard,
    thank you for sharing. . . . . .

  11. I absolutely love your website.. Great colors & theme. Did you make this website yourself? Please reply back as I’m planning to create my own personal site and want to find out where you got this from or what the theme is called. Thanks!

  12. Definitely believe that which you said. Your favourite reason appeared to be on the internet the easiest
    thing to bear in mind of. I say to you, I definitely get annoyed even as people think
    about issues that they just do not realize about. You controlled to hit the nail upon the top and also outlined out
    the entire thing without having side-effects , other people could take a signal.
    Will likely be back to get more. Thanks

  13. Excellent post. I was checking constantly this blog and I’m impressed!
    Extremely helpful info specially the last part :
    ) I care for such info much. I was looking for this particular info for
    a very long time. Thank you and best of luck.

  14. As Qin Hengtian sat in the temple, which represented the supreme power of the heavenly kingdom, all the officials were all swearing: “I have seen the king of the country and wish the king of the country to be a thousand years old.” “Imperial!” The eunuch is a species of this kind, so the close minister of Qin Hengtian is the maid of the maid. Because of the supremacy of force, there is no ritual of worship.

  15. Hi there would you mind stating which blog platform you’re working with?
    I’m going to start my own blog in the near future but I’m
    having a tough time making a decision between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal.
    The reason I ask is because your layout seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for something unique.
    P.S My apologies for being off-topic but I had to ask!

  16. Good post. I learn something new and challenging on sites I stumbleupon on a daily basis. It will always be exciting to read content from other writers and practice a little something from their web sites.

  17. “I’m commenting to let you be aware of what a excellent encounter my friend’s child went through reading yuor web blog. She came to understand a lot of issues, with the inclusion of what it’s like to possess an ideal helping mood to get many people without difficulty know just exactly some problematic subject matter. You undoubtedly exceeded readers’ expectations. I appreciate you for delivering these good, healthy, revealing and also cool tips on that topic to Ethel.”

  18. The boy with the tiger’s head said with joy, “Well, I also have a number, called Pangu, listening to the master. We still have a lot of teachers and sisters, Xuanyuan, and Xuanshi, as well as Fuxi, Tianzhu, time and space. Too clear…”

  19. “I have learn some just right stuff here. Definitely price bookmarking for revisiting. I wonder how a lot attempt you put to create one of these wonderful informative website.”

  20. A dogs face can very easily give away their guilt. It doesnt help when they are standing directly in front of the mess they just created. But admit it, you stay mad for about 10 seconds and then you have to laugh at the situation standing before you.

  21. Greate post. Keep posting such kind of info on your
    site. Im really impressed by it.
    Hey there, You’ve done a fantastic job.
    I will certainly digg it and personally suggest to my friends.
    I’m sure they will be benefited from this site.

  22. Good web site you have here.. It’s hard to find high quality writing like yours nowadays.
    I seriously appreciate people like you! Take care!!

  23. 128973 668933 Nice post. I learn something much more challenging on different blogs everyday. It will always be stimulating to read content material from other writers and practice a little something from their store. Id prefer to use some with the content material on my weblog whether you dont mind. Natually Ill give you a link on your internet weblog. Thanks for sharing. 145395

  24. 5/10/2019 I’m gratified by the manner in which covers this sort of topic! Generally on point, sometimes polemic, without fail well-written as well as stimulating.

  25. I always emailed this web site post page to all my contacts,
    because if like to read it next my friends will too.

  26. Have you ever thought about including a little bit more than just
    your articles? I mean, what you say is fundamental and everything.
    But think of if you added some great graphics or video clips to give your posts more, “pop”!
    Your content is excellent but with images and videos,
    this website could undeniably be one of the greatest in its niche.
    Wonderful blog!

  27. This is actually exciting, You’re an enormously knowledgeable blogger. I have enrolled with your feed and also anticipate witnessing the useful write-ups. At the same time, I’ve shared your site in our social networks.

  28. “It is really a great and helpful piece of information. I’m glad that you shared this helpful info with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.”

  29. Hello There. I found your blog using msn. This is an extremely well written article. I will make sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of your useful information. Thanks for the post. I’ll certainly comeback.

  30. Hello to every , because I am truly eager of reading this webpage’s post to be updated on a regular basis. It includes nice information.

  31. “One important issue is that when you find yourself searching for a education loan you may find that you’ll want a cosigner. There are many cases where this is correct because you might find that you do not have a past credit score so the bank will require that you’ve got someone cosign the financial loan for you. Interesting post.”

  32. Needless to say bwin certainly are a well recognised company name however it is important to study the evaluation closely. Betfair contains a attractive as well as simple to grasp website that’s popular with both recent as well as existing gamblers. Roulette Sniper is quite completely different from other existing strategies like the progressive or perhaps the martingale.

  33. Viagra On Line Amoxicillin 875 Mg Abscessed Tooth On Sale Worldwide Amoxicilina [url=][/url] Buy Prevacid Odt Amoxicillin Cause Severe Diarrhea Viagra Mercado Libre

  34. “This is really interesting, You’re a very skilled blogger. I’ve joined your feed and look forward to seeking more of your excellent post. Also, I’ve shared your site in my social networks!”

  35. I’m not sure where you’re getting your information, but good topic.
    I needs to spend some time learning much more or understanding more.
    Thanks for fantastic info I was looking for this information for my mission.

  36. acnpbbdgil,This website truly has alll of the information and facts I wanted about this subject and didn?t know who to ask.

  37. I’ve learn several just right stuff here. Certainly value bookmarking
    for revisiting. I surprise how much attempt you place to create
    this type of great informative web site.

  38. Levitra Zapfchen Cytotec Acheter En Ligne [url=]viagra prescription[/url] Acheter Viagra Suisse Fedex Progesterone Online Amex Accepted Overseas Cod Knowsley

  39. 957363 581290Ill correct away grasp your rss feed as I cant in obtaining your email subscription hyperlink or e-newsletter service. Do youve any? Please let me understand so that I may possibly subscribe. Thanks. 689818

  40. It’s perfect time to make some plans for the long run and
    it’s time to be happy. I’ve read this publish and if I may I wish to suggest
    you some fascinating issues or suggestions.
    Maybe you can write subsequent articles regarding this article.
    I desire to read even more things about it!

  41. Helpful information, Fortunate me I found your site inadvertently, and I’m amazed why this fortuitous event did not occurred ahead of time! I bookmarked it.

  42. Your blog provided us with valuable information to work with. Each & every tips of your post are awesome. Thanks a lot for sharing. Keep blogging..

  43. “Hey there. I found your site by the use of Google at the same time as looking for a related topic, your web site got here up. It appears to be good. I have bookmarked it in my google bookmarks to visit then.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top button