Are synthetic insulin-secreting cells the future of diabetes treatment?
While treatments for type 1 diabetes are rapidly evolving, even the most recent hi-tech artificial pancreas system still involves glucose monitors and insulin pumps. But a new development from scientists at the University of North Carolina and NC State could do away with the need for injections and glucose monitoring through the use of artificial beta cells that mimic the insulin-secreting function of healthy cells.
For patients with type 1 diabetes, and some cases of type 2 diabetes, the pancreas fails to produce effective beta cells, the cells that monitor blood sugar and release insulin to keep glucose levels normalized. Outside of manual monitoring and insulin injections, pancreatic cell treatments are an option, albeit an expensive and time consuming one.
In an effort to create synthetic beta cells that can duplicate the behavior of natural beta cells, scientists from the University of North Carolina and NC State cleverly produced artificial cells containing insulin-stuffed vesicles. The vesicles' coating can identify high glucose levels and subsequently release the load of insulin into the surrounding bloodstream.
"This is the first demonstration using such a vesicle fusion process for delivering insulin that employs insulin-containing vesicles like those found in a beta cell and can reproduce the beta cell's functions in sensing glucose and responding with insulin 'secretion'," says Zhaowei Chen, lead author on the study.
The artificial beta cells were tested in diabetic mice and within an hour of the injection the mice displayed normal blood glucose level Continue reading