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Scientists ‘halt’ type 1 diabetes for 6 months

By Editor
26th January 2016

Researchers in America are claiming a breakthrough in the pursuit of a cure for type 1 diabetes after halting the condition for six months.

They managed to transplant cells into mice, which immediately began producing insulin, and were also able to prevent the cells being rendered useless by the body’s own immune system, which was effectively “switched off” thanks to scientific work.

Replicating the results in people

Scientists from US hospitals and institutions, including Harvard University, are now working to replicate the results in people with the condition.

It comes on the back of Harvard professor Doug Melton’s major discovery in autumn 2014 of how to make huge quantities of insulin-producing cells.

Professor Melton, who’s work has been inspired by his son Sam who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as a baby, also worked on these new studies, with the human islet cells used for the new research generated from human stem cells.

Cells immediately began producing insulin

The cells immediately began producing insulin having been implanted in mice, in response to blood glucose levels and were able to maintain blood glucose within a healthy range for 174 days, which was the study’s duration.

The findings are published in the journals Nature Medicine and Nature Biotechnology with funding from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF).

Experts were able to create a newly-modified alginate material to encapsulate human pancreatic islet cells in one study, presenting a way of making the body adopt them.

The modified alginate, a material originally derived from brown algae, was used to prevent the body triggering an immune response which can lead to the build-up of scar tissue and the cells ultimately being rendered useless.

A library of almost 800 alginate derivatives was created and evaluated the immune response to each of them. This led them to focus on one called triazole-thiomorpholine dioxide (TMTD), which had a minimal immune response in mice and large animals.

The researchers then implanted human islet cells encapsulated in TMTD in mice, which provided the success for the study.

‘Groundbreaking’ research

JDRF’s vice president of discovery research Julia Greenstein said: “Encapsulation therapies have the potential to be groundbreaking for people with type 1 diabetes.

“These treatments aim to effectively establish long-term insulin independence and eliminate the daily burden of managing the disease for months, possibly years, at a time without the need for immune suppression.

“JDRF is excited by these findings and we hope to see this research progress into human clinical trials and ultimately a potential new type 1 diabetes therapy.”

Senior author of the research Daniel Anderson, who is associate professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s department of chemical engineering, said: “We are excited by these results, and are working hard to advance this technology to the clinic.”

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