A cure for diabetes could be on the way after researchers found a way to transplant insulin-secreting cells into mice, which suppresses the condition. It’s one of the most common major conditions of our age, and yet there is no cure. The rates have gone up almost 60% in the last decade and there are millions of people affected.
In 2014, scientists found a way to produce huge quantities of pancreatic beta cells, or insulin-secreting cells, and replace the damaged cells with healthy ones. However, there was a major drawback to the technique that deemed it useless. The patient’s immune system instantly started attacking the pancreatic beta cells, which suppressed their ability to produce insulin. Patients were required to be on immuno suppressants for the rest of their lives for it to work, which could arrive with several harmful side effects and risks.
Thus, the method was not at all beneficial long term.
Protection from the immune system
However, researchers from MIT and Harvard University found a way to protect the insulin-secreting cells. They first created a library of around 800 materials, of alginate derivatives, and tested the immune’s response to each in part. Their findings uncovered that triazole-thiomorpholine dioxide (TMTD) was the most beneficial material as the immune system had a minimal reaction to it.
That made it the perfect coating for pancreatic beta cells.
6 months diabetes-free
Researchers then implanted human islet cells encapsulated in the aforementioned TMTD material in rodent subjects. The cells instantly began producing insulin, and the TMTD stopped the immune system from attacking them. This kept their blood sugar under control, and the protection lasted for the entire length of the study, which was 174 days. That means that diabetes was repressed for almost half a year.
That’s the exciting part, according to co-author of the study, Omid Veiseh. They alleviated the mice’s need for insulin injections, and they were able to do it for around 6 months. The pancreatic beta cells were allowed to freely secrete insulin while the TMTD protected it from the immune system.
Co-author of the study, Daniel Anderson claimed that this technique could provide type 1 diabetes patients with a new pancreas that is protected from the immune system. That way, the daily insulin injections would be removed without the need for immuno suppressants. It’s a major breakthrough in the field that could help thousands, if not millions, of people around the world.
The treatment has the potential of being a long-term solution for patients suffering from diabetes. It could make their lives tremendously easier, and researchers are excited to progress with their research in human trials. If it proves successful, it will open exciting possibilities for people with type 1 diabetes.
Image source: healthination.com