JDRF-funded researchers have made important discoveries in encapsulation that could improve the success of islet transplantation. In a study in mice, scientists showed for the first time that transplanted cells that become insulin-producing cells can survive by being encapsulated in a durable “device” that protects them against an immune attack. Equally important, those cells then developed into insulin-producing cells that control rising blood sugar levels. By contrast, adult insulin-producing cells that were encapsulated in the same way exhibited poor survival. The results suggest that encapsulating cells before they differentiate and become beta cells—using stem cells, for example—may be a more successful approach to replacing insulin-producing cells in people with type 1 diabetes, and a new way to take advantage of emerging cell-based therapies.
“Our data suggest that long-term protection of human beta cells in type 1 diabetic patients without immuno-suppression is a realistic goal,” said Pamela Itkin-Ansari and colleagues from the University of California, San Diego and the Burnham Institute for Medical Research in La Jolla, California. Their findings were reported in the journal Transplantation.