|UIC's Jose Oberholzer|
Building on years of work on developing new insulin-producing cells that could one day control glucose levels and cure diabetes, a group of investigators led by scientists at MIT and Boston Children's Hospital say they've developed a promising new gel capsule that protected the cells from an immune system assault.
Dr. Jose Oberholzer, a professor of bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago, tested a variety of chemically modified alginate hydrogel spheres to see which ones would be best at protecting the islet cells created from human stem cells.
The team concluded that 1.5-millimeter spheres of triazole-thiomorphine dioxide (TMTD) alginate were best at protecting the cells and allowing insulin to seep out without spurring an errant immune system attack or the development of scar tissue--two key threats to making this work in humans.
They maintained healthy glucose levels in the rodents for 174 days, the equivalent to decades for humans.
"While this is a very promising step towards an eventual cure for diabetes, a lot more testing is needed to ensure that the islet cells don't de-differentiate back toward their stem-cell states or become cancerous," said Oberholzer.
Millions of diabetics have effectively controlled the chronic disease with existing therapies, but there's still a huge unmet medical need to consider. While diabetes companies like Novo ($NVO) like to cite the fact that a third of diabetics have the disease under control, a third are on meds but don't control it well and a third haven't been diagnosed. An actual cure for the disease, which has been growing by leaps and bounds all over the world, would be revolutionary.
Their study was published in Nature Medicine.