The dream for everyone with type 1 diabetes (T1D) is to permanently restore their body’s lost ability to produce insulin. This defines a cure for T1D and remains a top priority for JDRF. As we work towards this longer-term goal, JDRF is also supporting intermediate term options that should enable people with T1D to become insulin independent, at least for a period of time. This is the goal of JDRF’s encapsulation research program.
JDRF recently launched a new encapsulation initiative through a partnership with Beta-O2 Technologies Ltd, a company based in Israel that is developing a novel encapsulation device for people with T1D. Beta-O2’s encapsulation device is called βAir and JDRF wants to speed up its testing. The ßAir device is an implantable macroencapsulation system composed of an immune protection unit (about two and a half inches across) connected to ports through which oxygen can be periodically injected to support the survival of the enclosed beta cells or islets. Ensuring an adequate oxygen supply for encapsulated cells remains one of the biggest challenges for macroencapsulation devices. Balancing the need for immune protection with the need for an adequate oxygen supply is a tall order for most encapsulation device designs. The Beta-O2 approach may represent an ingenious solution.
The device is implanted under the skin using minimally invasive surgery with the ports just below the skin surface. The oxygen ports must remain accessible to recharge the device with a new supply of oxygen daily. The system, with encapsulated human islets, was already tested in one person with T1D for ten months and demonstrated sustained functioning of the implanted islet cells. The new JDRF partnership will help fund additional pilot human studies with the device over the next two years and will evaluate the survival and function of implanted human islets in the system.
Biomedical research is a risky endeavor and no single concept is guaranteed to succeed. This is why JDRF continues to expand its support of multiple approaches in the exciting and very promising field of encapsulation for T1D. For more information or to support JDRF’s encapsulation research program, please click here.
Source: Neufeld T, Ludwig B, Barkai U, Weir GC, Colton CK, et al. (2013) The Efficacy of an Immunoisolating Membrane System for Islet Xenotransplantation in Minipigs. PLoS ONE 8(8): e70150. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0070150