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Treating Diabetes With Cell Transplants

A team of scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology believes it has found the closest cure to Type I diabetes yet, at least one that acts as an alternative to routine injections. The reason? Theoretical beta booster injections that would replace them, thanks to "a material that can be used to encapsulate human islet cells before transplanting them."

The scientists developed the material with the help of a test run conducted with mice genetically engineered to develop Type I diabetes by implanting it in their test subjects and observing the results. After the procedure, the mice began to generate their own insulin in accordance with their blood glucose levels over a period of 174 days the study lasted - eliminating the need, hypothetically, for humans to find synthetic ways to do it themselves daily. Islet cells are clusters of pancreatic cells that sense blood sugar levels and release insulin to maintain normal levels 

Even better? The half-year cure period the mice in question exhibited translates roughly to the equivalent of several years for humans.

The booster shots have the "potential to provide diabetics with a new pancreas that is protected from the immune system," according to researcher Daniel Anderson in a statement released by MIT, "which would allow them to control their blood sugar without taking drugs."

"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,"  he said.

Even better better news? The scientific team anticipates human trials within the next few years. 

Papers outlining research behind the study also were published Monday in Nature Medicine and in Nature Biotechnology.

Source: MIT

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