Type 1 diabetes patients have to inject themselves with insulin to replace the inability of beta cells of pancreas to produce the hormone. To cure Type 1 diabetes will require either a way to “fix” the pancreas and prevent it from being damaged by the immune system, or some sort of implant that can generate insulin as the body requires.
Researchers at University of Arizona, working with others, including researchers at Novo Nordisk and University of Alberta, are now perfecting a new device that can generate insulin from within the body. This artificial pancreas relies on donated islet cells. Islet cell transplantation can work for some patients, but it requires the use of immunosuppressants that are dangerous, particularly to children. The implant uses transplanted islet cells, but keeps them insulated from the body’s immune system, preventing them from being damaged. The researchers describe the technology as a high-tech tea bag for islet cells through which only insulin can seep out.
The latest developments have included providing a reliable supply of oxygen to the implant so that the cells live and reproduce at a normal pace and continue working for a long time. This has turned out to be an issue, as when implanted without having direct access to oxygen, similar devices failed to work as expected in the past.
The researchers are now working toward preparing the technology so that it can be tested properly in preparations for clinical trials. “This is not pie-in-the-sky crazy science,” in a statement said Klearchos Papas, PhD, professor in the Departments of Surgery and Medical Imaging at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson. “We believe, engineering-wise, it is achievable. The cells and the biology were the difficult part and they have come a long way in the past five years”
Study in journal Endocrine Connections: Oxygen-permeable microwell device maintains islet mass and integrity during shipping…