A new islet transplantation technique has shown potential for long-term type 1 diabetes treatment in both humans and dogs.
The therapy, which can maintain insulin independence in mice with type 1 diabetes for 90 days, is now being tested on dogs by scientists in America.
Islet cell transplantation is where a batch of insulin cells replace islets, the clusters of cells which release insulin. In some cases, the therapy has helped adults with type 1 diabetes go months or even years without insulin.
Currently, islets are delivered through a vein of the liver, but a significant number of islets are destroyed by the immune system and multiple donors are therefore required.
But this new formula involves using collagen – a protein used for building muscles, bones and skin as well as blood vessels – to protect the pancreatic cells.
When the formula is injected, it solidifies and the body supplies it with blood flow to exchange insulin and glucose. The researchers state that the collagen formula is able to spring into action within 24 hours.
Researchers from Purdue University and Indiana University School of Medicine hope to build on findings from previously successful experiments with their upcoming trials.
Tests on mice given the formula showed the rodents could go at least 90 days without needing another injection. The results showed that the majority of the islets were able to survive the immune system attack.
The formula is being tested on dogs because they are treated in the same way as people for the condition. The tests on dogs will also involve looking at feasibility of transplanting pig islets.
If successful, and it would need to go through clinical trials involving people first, the researchers say it could be the first minimally invasive therapy to temporary reverse the condition.
Whilst the treatment has shown success in mice, this is not a guarantee that success will occur in humans. One reason for this is because within the lab, mice are modelled to have a condition similar to type 1 diabetes.
However, the model can only get close to acting in similar way as type 1 diabetes and does not completely mimic the condition. This helps to explain why many successful treatments for mice fail to have sufficient effect on humans.
Clarissa Hernandez Stephens, who is part of the research team, explained: “We plan to account for differences from mouse to human by helping dogs first. This way, the dogs can inform us on how well the treatment might work in humans.”
Initial findings will be published by the American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism.

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