A pioneering research project will discover whether the secret to treating type 1 diabetes could lie in your tongue.
90 participants are being recruited to take part in the trial, which will focus on picking out stem cells from taste buds found in the mouth. The study will be led by researchers from the National Institute of Ageing based in America.
The research will investigate whether stem cells taken from the tongue can be transformed and bred into cells capable of producing insulin in response to fluctuating levels of glucose.
Five samples will be taken from each participant’s tongue to provide material for the research. The stem cells will be fed a complex molecular mix under tightly-controlled conditions in an attempt to turn them into insulin-producing cells.
If successful, the process could help towards developing specially-tailored treatments capable of replacing insulin-producing beta cells lost from the pancreas. The new cells could either be transplanted directly into the patient or put into the body using a state-of-the-art capsule as part of an encapsulated islet cells treatment.
Researchers believe that, in the longer term, the beta-like cells could be produced directly from the patient’s own taste buds providing a bespoke treatment that may also eliminate the need for strong drugs to suppress a patient’s immune response following a transplant.
The procedure could make transplants a more viable form of treatment for people with type 1 diabetes. However, there is a long way to go with many years of further research expected
The research team is now looking to sign up 90 people to take part in the clinical trial and these recruits would need to be happy to donate very small samples from the tongue. The participants selected will be an equal number of men and women and will come from three different age groups; 18-39 year olds, 40-59 year olds, and 60 years and older.
Results of the trial are expected to appear in 2022.