Insulin producing cells, created in a laboratory, will soon eliminate daily injections for type 1 diabetics.
Australian scientists have succeeded in creating cells that produce insulin on their own. These cells can potentially make daily insulin injections redundant. Scientists from the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) managed to create these cells from regular liver cells, and they are already gearing up to incorporate them to a world-first bio-artificial pancreas after being licensed by U.S. biotechnology company PharmaCyte Biotech last October.
PharmaCyte Biotech has an innovative delivery mechanism, called the Cell-in-a-Box system, which is basically a tiny cellulose-based “capsule” that can house artificial cells and integrate them into a human body. This platform is quite revolutionary in the sense that it can be tweaked to develop treatments for any disease where cells aren’t releasing the molecules they’re supposed to. After acquiring the license to the insulin-producing cells, it’s clear that PharmaCyte Biotech has set their sights on Type 1 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is essentially an autoimmune disease that occurs when a person’s immune system attacks their pancreas’s islet cells and prevents them from properly regulating the body’s blood glucose levels, which is done by the timely release of insulin in controlled quantities.
Explaining why the new cell line, called as “Melligen” cells, is derived from healthy liver cells, instead of pancreatic cells, Ann Simpson from UTS: Science, who has been developing the cells over the past 20 years, offered the following explanation.
“When a fetus develops, the liver and the pancreas form from the same endodermal origin. This means that they should have the potential to do the same things as one another.”
Accordingly, healthy human liver cells have been genetically modified to take over the role of the pancreas’s insulin-producing islet cells. So far, lab trials have been very promising, with these tweaked cells being able to release insulin in direct response to the amount of glucose in their surroundings. In a person suffering from type 1 diabetes, this work has to be done by painful injections.
The team plans to transplant artificial pancreases into animals to test whether they can effectively integrate into the body and regulate insulin levels. After that, they can begin testing the technology in humans.
Diabetes is one of the most common diseases of the modern world, and the epidemic is growing alarmingly. Fortunately, scientists are busy devising innovative and non-invasive ways to treat diabetes and help people lead a normal live.