Type 1 Diabetes is one of Australia’s leading health problems, affecting over 120,000 people in our country alone. Patients with Type 1 Diabetes suffer as a result of their pancreas being unable to produce enough, or any, insulin. The immune system basically turns on itself and leaves sufferers requiring constant and regular injections to compensate.
However, recent research out of Cornell University, Novo Nordisk and University of Michigan Medical School, has contributed to the development of an implantable device that may be able to generate insulin much like a healthy pancreas.
According to an article on Medgadget, the device “harbors live stem cell-derived pancreatic cell clusters, known as islets...within a hydrogel and bind them to a polymer thread.”
The research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), and does warn that “the islets, not being a part of a proper organ, do have a lifetime after which they’re no longer useful. They can also lead to tumor formation, a real possibility.”
However, “being part of a thread allows them to be fairly easily removed and replaced as necessary,” at least according to the researchers.
The hydrogel coating on the islet cells effectively prevents the immune system from attacking them, and the ionised thread is structured in such a way so as to allow the living cells to adhere to it.
It is very new technology that has yet to be tested on humans, but it has shown promising results in the lab, able to obtain normal diabetic levels within only two days.
Although there is a seemingly a long road ahead, some respite for Type 1 Diabetics is closer than ever before.
You can read more about the study in PNAS, here: Designing a retrievable and scalable cell encapsulation device for potential treatment of type 1 diabetes…