A Quest: Insulin-Releasing Implant For Type-1 Diabetes
Scientists in California think they may have found a way to transplant insulin-producing cells into diabetic patients who lack those cells — and protect the little insulin-producers from immune rejection. Their system, one of several promising approaches under development, hasn't yet been tested in people. But if it works, it could make living with diabetes much less of a burden.
For now, patients with Type-1 diabetes have to regularly test their blood sugar levels, and inject themselves with insulin when it's needed.
Some researchers are developing machines to automate that process.
But Crystal Nyitray, founder and CEO of the biotechnology startup Encellin, in San Francisco, didn't want to use a machine to treat diabetes. As a graduate student in bioengineering at the University of California, San Francisco a few years ago, Nyitray wanted to try something different: living cells.
"Cells are the ultimate smart machine," she says. Clinical trials that transplant insulin-making pancreatic cells into people with diabetes have been underway for several years, with some success. But the recipient's immune system is hard on these transplanted cells, and most patients still need insulin injections eventually.
Nyitray and colleagues designed a system that would encase live islet cells from the pancreas in a flexible membrane that could be implanted under the skin. Insulin and blood sugar could pass through the membrane, but cells from the recipient's immune system would be kept out, preventing immune rejection.
"I think of it like if you're sitting in a house and you have the win Continue reading