Researchers at MIT have developed a new implantable device that not only contains insulin-producing islet cells for the treatment of Type 1 diabetes, but also has its own on-board oxygen factory. The device generates oxygen by splitting water vapor found in the body, solving the issue of oxygen depletion in implanted cells that typically leads to a halt in insulin production. The device, which is about the size of a U.S. quarter, was tested on diabetic mice and successfully maintained normal blood glucose levels for at least a month. The researchers are now working on creating a larger version of the device that could eventually be tested in patients with Type 1 diabetes.
The current treatment for Type 1 diabetes requires patients to monitor their blood glucose levels closely and inject themselves with insulin daily. However, this process does not replicate the body’s natural ability to regulate blood glucose. Transplanted islet cells from human cadavers or stem cells have proven to be a more effective treatment option, as they produce insulin in response to changes in blood glucose levels. However, patients who receive these transplants must also take immunosuppressive drugs to prevent rejection of the implanted cells.
The new implantable device offers a potential solution to the need for immunosuppressive drugs. By encapsulating the transplanted cells within a flexible device and providing a constant supply of oxygen, the researchers hope to create a living medical device that can produce insulin as needed. The device uses a proton-exchange membrane to split water vapor into hydrogen and oxygen, with the oxygen being stored and released to the islet cells. The device does not require any wires or batteries and can be powered wirelessly through resonant inductive coupling.
In addition to its application in diabetes treatment, the device could also be adapted to deliver other therapeutic proteins over long periods of time. The researchers demonstrated that the device was able to sustain cells that produce erythropoietin, a protein that stimulates red blood cell production. The success of this technology opens up possibilities for the development of living medical devices that can reside in the body and produce drugs as needed.
Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, MIT News
– Type 1 diabetes: a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin, resulting in high blood sugar levels.
– Islet cells: cells in the pancreas that produce insulin.
– Insulin: a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels.
– Immunosuppressive drugs: medications that prevent the immune system from attacking and rejecting transplanted cells.
– Proton-exchange membrane: a technology used to generate hydrogen in fuel cells.
– Resonant inductive coupling: a wireless power transfer method using a tuned magnetic coil and a small, flexible antenna.
– Erythropoietin: a protein that stimulates the production of red blood cells.
– Immunogenicity: the ability of a substance to provoke an immune response.
– Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
– MIT News