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Micro-pancreas ready for UK trials says Israeli developer

Scientists working on an implantable ‘micro-pancreas’ with the ability to produce insulin in response to blood glucose levels are looking to test it in the UK.

Israeli firm Betalin Therapeutics will submit a request in August for the technology to take part in human clinical trials, having already been tested the technology on animals with some success.

The “bio-artificial” pancreas works by combining insulin-producing beta cells and a biological scaffolding, which is adapted from pig lung tissue and situates those cells and mimics their natural environment.

The engineered micro-pancreas would be implanted under the skin on the thigh, acting as a replacement pancreas for insulin functions. It is just visible to the naked eye.

The company says it would last for two years and could then be replaced, with the cost likely to be $40,000 per implant.

Speaking to the Guardian, the company said it would be submitting a plan to Britain’s regulatory agency for clinical trials next month, with the aim of beginning the research early next year and having the product available by 2024.

Betalin chief executive Nikolai Kunicher said: “Our unique technology allows the body to heal itself. For now, the focus is on diabetes, but there are many more diseases that we intend to cure with the aid of this technology.”

The technology was created by Professor Eduardo Mitrani, from Institute of Life Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Betalin has picked the UK as the country has already approved another similar treatment, titled the Edmonton Protocol, where beta cells are implanted on the liver.

Transplant surgeon Omar Masood from St James Hospital, Leeds, will be leading the study, in several hospitals linked with Leeds and Newcastle universities.

Two Nobel laureates in chemistry, both with diabetes, are part of Betalin’s advisory committee. The company has received grants totalling to approximately £4.5m from the EU as well as over £6m from Israeli, US and Chinese investors.

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