Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune disease where the immune system destroys insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. Researchers have developed an implantable device, called Neovascularized Implantable Cell Homing and Encapsulation (NICHE), to treat T1D through islet therapy.
The device, developed by Alessandro Grattoni and his colleagues at the Houston Methodist Research Institute, is 3D printed and contains a central reservoir that holds beta cells and a mesenchymal stem cell hydrogel, which induces blood vessel formation within NICHE. The device also contains a U-shaped reservoir containing immunosuppressant drugs that surround and protect the cells from the immune response once implanted.
The researchers tested NICHE subcutaneously in immunocompetent rats rendered diabetic, and after monitoring the rats for more than 150 days, they determined that diabetic rats receiving local or systemic immunosuppressive drugs had major improvements compared to control rats, including significant drops in blood glucose levels within 10 days after transplantation.
They also observed fewer cytotoxic T cells and macrophages within the NICHE device in the drug-treated groups. The device was additionally transplanted into cynomolgus macaques, where the transplanted device was extensively vascularized and enabled beta cell survival within the device.
Grattoni has received additional funding from the National Institute of Health to scale the NICHE device to better fit diabetic nonhuman primates by accommodating more cells and a larger dose of immunosuppressants. Currently, the team is assessing the best cocktail of immunosuppressant drugs to use for the larger cell reservoir.
You can find more information in the paper titled “Implantable niche with local immunosuppression for islet allotransplantation achieves type 1 diabetes reversal in rats”, in Nature Communications, at this link.
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