Mini organ may offer biological cure for type 1 diabetes

Wed, 06 Mar 2013
The Diabetes Research Institute in America has announced that it is working on a new diabetes treatment approach that could offer a biological cure for type 1 diabetes .

The BioHub is a bioengineered 'mini organ' that acts as healthy human pancreas, restoring natural insulin production and secretion in the body to keep blood sugar levels under control.

It is designed to house thousands of healthy, transplanted islet cells, providing the right "physical environment" to protect them from an autoimmune attack and help them flourish.

Islets are clusters of endocrine cells, which include insulin-producing beta cells and glucagon-producing alpha cells . In a healthy pancreas, these cells work together to regulate and maintain normal blood sugar levels.

According to the DRI researchers, islets could be transplanted from a variety of sources, including stem cells or pig islet cells, and housed in a 'silicone scaffold' - a small sponge-like material that's compatible with the human body.

Helper cells would help protect the islets by reducing inflammation and defending them from being rejected by the immune system, as well as stimulating the growth of blood vessels to supply oxygen to the cells.

To add further protection from immune attack, the scientists have developed a unique technology to coat the cells with a protective ultra-thin barrier.

The research team say the next step is conduct clinical trials in adults with type 1 diabetes .

The trials, which are scheduled to begin in 2014, will test the use of the silicone scaffold, assess the placement of the BioHub platform within the abdominal lining and assess its ability to control blood glucose and ultimately reverse type 1 diabetes.
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