Researchers are closing in on a cure for Type 1 diabetes that could potentially make daily insulin shots a thing of the past.
Patients suffering from Type 1 diabetes require insulin injections daily to regulate their blood sugar level, which is a painful, itchy and often irritating treatment for the disease.
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Researchers from MIT and Boston Children’s Hospital are claiming that these daily painful insulin shots will soon become a thing of the past as they are inching closer to developing a better diabetes treatment and the treatment will likely replace all the conventional methods in the future.
Back in 2014, researchers found a way to produce pancreatic beta cells – cells that naturally produce insulin – in large quantities and replaced destroyed pancreatic islet cells with healthy ones, but there was a major drawback in the technique.
In Type 1 diabetes, a person’s immune system starts to attack its own pancreatic cells and leaves them without the ability of producing insulin. The immune system does the same with transplanted cells too. Therefore, patients have to take immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of their lives.
To overcome the problem, researchers designed a material that can be used to encapsulate human islet cells before transplantation. Thus, protect them from the attack of immune system. In tests on mice, researchers found that these encapsulated human cells could cure diabetes for up to six months, without provoking an immune response.
The approach “has the potential to provide diabetics with a new pancreas that is protected from the immune system, which would allow them to control their blood sugar without taking drugs.” Daniel Anderson, one of the authors of the study, said.
To build up the cover, researchers created a library of almost 800 alginate derivatives and evaluated the immune response to each of them. They found triazole-thiomorpholine dioxide (TMTD) the best of the lot as it had a minimal immune response in mice and large animals.
Researchers implanted human islet cells encapsulated in TMTD in mice, which immediately began producing insulin and kept blood sugar under control for the length of the study, 174 days.
“The really exciting part of this was being able to show, in an immune competent mouse, that when encapsulated these cells do survive for a long period of time, at least six months,” said co-author Omid Veiseh. “The cells can sense glucose and secrete insulin in a controlled manner, alleviating the mice’s need for injected insulin.”
Researchers are now planning to conduct further tests in other animals before eventually performing clinical trails in diabetic patients. If successful, this approach could provide long-term solution for controlling blood sugar in patients with Type 1 disease.
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Daniel Anderson says. “Our goal is to continue to work hard to translate these promising results into a therapy that can help people."