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Type 1 Diabetes Cure Within Grasp, Works In Animals

Update Date: Jan 27, 2016 10:34 AM EST

Formerly incurable, a cure for Type 1 diabetes is now within reach thank to researchers at Harvard and MIT. The team has found a way to insert beta cells into the body without provoking immune response.

According to CNBC, researchers announced a novel way to make the cells that produce and regulate insulin production, outside the body. These cells can be encapsulated in a shield before insertion into the body in order to prevent provoking the immune system. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder where the body's immune system attacks pancreas.

Individuals with Type 1 diabetes have to constantly monitor blood sugar levels and inject insulin to keep levels within tolerance levels. However, management of sugar levels is not easy to achieve with high sugar levels often leading to organ damage.

Insertion of bioengineered pancreatic islet cells has been tried before with little success given the body's immune system reaction. Efforts with shields, not unlike the current achievement, have failed in the past as they caused tissue scarring which in turn prevented the encapsulated cells from working.

This time around, researchers created nearly 800 derivatives of alginate, obtained from brown algae. Following testing with some of them, they found the most suitable shield derivative that not only avoided provoking the immune system, but also allowed cells within to function normally for the longest possible duration.

"We made all these derivatives of alginate by attaching different small molecules to the polymer chain, in hopes that these small molecule modifications would somehow give it the ability to prevent recognition by the immune system," study first author Arturo Vegas, said.

The transplant tried in mice and non-human primates did not produce an immune system reaction for six to eight months, which the authors say is encouraging enough for human trials.

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