Here’s some interesting research into islet cell transplantation for the treatment of type I diabetes mellitus. Using a specialized implant, pre-vascularized to keep islet cells going, scientists out of the Diabetes Research Institute at the University of Miami, Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine (DRI), have shown a potential for its clinical use. From the press release:
In patients with type 1 diabetes, the immune system mistakenly attacks islet cells in the pancreas – the cells that produce insulin to regulate the body’s levels of blood sugar. In islet cell transplantation, insulin-producing cells are harvested from donor pancreata and injected into the liver through that organ’s portal vein – the main blood supply into the liver…
In the study, investigators implanted a 2 centimeter-long device (about one inch) with a diameter of approximately half-a-centimeter into an animal model. The device is made of biocompatible stainless steel mesh and polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) plastic caps and a plug (see photo) .
The device was left implanted for 40 days during which tissue and new blood vessels proliferated around and inside it. The plug retains space inside the mesh. After 40 days, through a small incision, the plug is removed and islet cells in a saline solution are injected into the space.
The device is capped and the incision closed.Insulin production was measured within days of islet cell transplantation and proper blood sugar was quickly achieved and maintained. Scientists found no adverse effects even 180 days after transplantation. In laboratory models where the device was removed the diabetic condition quickly returned.
“This alternative to transplanting islets into the liver is easy to perform, easy to evaluate and provides an ideal new site for islet transplantation,” said Pileggi. [Antonello Pileggi, M.D., professor of surgery at DRI ed.] The next step is a larger study to repeat these results and generate more data to present to the Food and Drug Administration.
The eventual objective is to test a similar approach in clinical trials to treat patients with type 1 diabetes, as an alternative to intrahepatic islet transplantation.