Israeli Beta-O2, a company just coming out of stealth mode, announced that its ßAir bio-artificial pancreas will be put through a clinical trial thanks to a grant from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). The initial trial will involve eight patients at the Uppsala University Hospital in Sweden who will use the new device for approximately two years to assess the safety, survival, and function of implanted pancreatic endocrine cells.
The device actually contains islets of Langerhans, cells that produce insulin and glucagon, which are meant to function together much like a healthy pancreas. Since living cells make a home inside the ßAir device, patients will have to keep the colony healthy similarly to the Tamagotchi by feeding it air and oxygenating it every 24 hours.
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Replenishing the device is performed through 2 ports implanted under the skin. The replenishing device is very user friendly, requires minimal technical skills for operation, and has very few possibilities for incorrect operation. The replenishing procedure takes just about 2 minutes and an alarm will be triggered if something has gone wrong.
Within the Bioreactor, the cells are implanted into a hydrogel structure that provides a comfortable environment for the cells to thrive. Furthermore, this structure provides a protection from the immune system, which means that patients do not need immunosuppressive therapy as would be necessary with a conventional islet transplantation.