Insulin injections might soon be a thing of the past; at least, for Type 1 diabetes patients. A team of Australian researchers have synthesised cells that produce the hormone insulin which could be the answer to that form of diabetes. The cells might soon be used in the world’s first artificial pancreas. The license was granted by the US biotechnology company PharmaCyte Biotech last October.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease whereby the patient’s islet cells of the pancreas are attacked by his immune system such that the regulation of blood glucose becomes problematic.
The new cells that have been formed are called Melligen cells and they were derived from human liver cells; the liver and the pancreas are known to be forming from the same primordial cells, and, therefore, the liver cells were easily genetically modified to function as the insulin-producing cells, the islet cells.
Results showed that the GM Melligen cells released insulin as a response to the level of glucose found in their surroundings. The findings were so fruitful that the researchers concluded that they could help type 1 diabetes patients to decrease their dependency on daily injections; their blood sugar concentrations could be tuned naturally via these cells.
The Melligen cells will now have to be incorporated into the Cell-in-a-box® capsule. The latter which is about the same size as a pin head is a cellulose-based capsule that houses cells and later integrates them into the human body.
Another future step of the researchers will entail the transplantation of the artificial pancreases into animals. Thereafter, testing on humans will hopefully be possible.