Researchers have made a significant first step with newly engineered biomaterials for cell transplantation that could help lead to a possible cure for Type 1 diabetes, which affects about 3 million Americans.
Georgia Tech engineers and Emory University clinicians have successfully engrafted insulin-producing cells into a diabetic mouse model, reversing diabetic symptoms in the animal in as little as 10 days.
The research team engineered a biomaterial to protect the cluster of insulin-producing cells – donor pancreatic islets – during injection. The material also contains proteins to foster blood vessel formation that allow the cells to successfully graft, survive and function within the body.
Georgia Tech and Emory researchers engineered a hydrogel, a material compatible with biological tissues that is a promising therapeutic delivery vehicle. This water-swollen, cross-linked polymer surrounds the insulin-producing cells and protects them during injection. The hydrogel containing the islets was delivered to a new injection site on the outside of the small intestine, thus avoiding direct injection into the blood stream.
Once in the body, the hydrogel degrades in a controlled fashion to release a growth factor protein that promotes blood vessel formation and connection of the transplanted islets to these new vessels. In the study, the blood vessels effectively grew into the biomaterial and successfully connected to the insulin-producing cells.
Four weeks after the transplantation, diabetic mice treated with the hydrogel had normal glucose levels, and the delivered islets were alive and vascularized to the same extent as islets in a healthy mouse pancreas. The technique also required fewer islets than previous transplantation attempts, which may allow doctors to treat more patients with limited donor samples. Currently, donor cells from two to three cadavers are needed for one patient.
While the new biomaterial and injection technique is promising, the study used genetically identical mice and therefore did not address immune rejection issues common to human applications. The research team has funding from JDRF to study whether an immune barrier they created will allow the cells to be accepted in genetically different mice models. If successful, the trials could move to larger animals.
This story is reprinted from material from Georgia Tech, with editorial changes made by Materials Today. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of Elsevier. Link to original source.