New islet cell therapy could lead to a cure for type 1 diabetes according to researchers at the University of Miami’s Diabetes Research Institute. Four adults are newly diagnosed with diabetes every five minutes in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The need for more effective therapies is urgent as many patients struggle to manage the disease over time.
The new islet cell therapy may help eliminate the need for insulin in patients with type 1 diabetes. The significance of this new procedure is that it replaces older therapies that were only effective for a decade, and it could lead to a permanent cure for type 1 diabetes.
Islet Cells & Type 1 Diabetes
As part of the study, a 43-year-old patient with type 1 diabetes was recruited to receive the islet cell therapy. The patient was diagnosed with the condition at the age of 17 and had been managing the disease with insulin injections.
Type 1 diabetes is caused by damage to the islet cells that are responsible for producing insulin in the pancreas. To counteract this loss, researchers perform a minimally invasive procedure to access the omentum, a region in the body located inside the lining of the abdomen. After the surgical opening is made, donated islets cells are combined with the patient's blood cells onto the surface of the omentum. To cause a reaction, researchers then add a clinical-grade enzyme called thrombin that produces a gel-like material that sticks to the omentum. After this step, the scientists add a biodegradable scaffold mixture and thrombin to secure the omentum in place. After some time, the gel is absorbed by the body, leaving the islet cells undamaged and supplied with new blood vessels, oxygen, and nutrients to support the transplanted cells over time.
Type 1 Diabetes vs. Normal islets.
The results of the islet cell transplant procedure allowed the patient in the study to naturally produce the insulin needed to manage type 1 diabetes, eliminating the need for special diets and regular insulin injections.
This new therapy could mean a cure for type 1 diabetes, and no more need for people with type 1 diabetes to pay for expensive insulin. Since diet is one of the biggest challenges besides insulin adherence, this diabetes treatment could give type 1 diabetes patients newfound freedom to choose foods that are normally banned by doctors.