A patent has been approved in the US that could protect insulin-deriving cells in people with type 1 diabetes for several years, offering a fascinating new treatment for the condition.
Scientists at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Australia have been engineering cells for several years to release insulin in response to blood glucose levels. They are known as Melligen cells, and could function in the same way that beta cells work in people without type 1 diabetes.
Last year, the UTS team managed to reverse type 1 diabetes in mice. But these mice did not have any immune response, and the Melligen cells would have been attacked in humans with type 1 diabetes.
Their next step was to encapsulate these cells for protection from the immune system. To achieve this, they partnered with PharmaCyte Biotech, a biotechnology company that has developed a product called Cell-in-a-Box. This product can protect the Melligen cells by hiding them from the immune system.
Cell-in-a-Box allows molecules to move in and out of the device, enabling the Melligen cells to know when blood glucose levels are low and release insulin in response. This combination has just been patented by the US Patent and Trademark Office.
Lead researcher at UTS, Ann Simpso, said: “We anticipate that the capsule technology will protect the Melligen cells from the body’s immune response that normally destroys foreign tissue, allowing the Melligen cells to be transplanted into humans.
“This takes us a step closer to releasing diabetics from the need to inject insulin daily and, more importantly, protecting them from the debilitating complications of the disease such as blindness, kidney failure and cardiovascular problems.”
The researchers report that the Cell-in-a-Box technology can stay in the bodies of people with type 1 diabetes for at least two years without damage. In the short-term, this could provide an injection-free treatment, and clinical trials are scheduled to assess how long the technology could work in people with type 1 diabetes.
PharmaCyte CEO, Kenneth Waggoner, added: “If we are successful in this effort, it will bring to fruition the many years of research that have been conducted by Professor Simpson and her colleagues at UTS in developing these remarkable cells.
“For the millions of people worldwide who suffer from a disease of epidemic proportions, our treatment could relieve them of the onerous daily requirements for insulin administration and dietary restrictions and offer a life free from the very serious and even life-threatening complications associated with diabetes.”

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