*. Type 1 diabetes results in an autoimmune reaction that attacks insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas, leading to significant fluctuations in blood sugar. Patients are required to take insulin daily for life. However, replacing the beta cells with islets (a group of cells in your pancreas) can be an attractive option. To prevent rejection, patients must be on lifelong immunosuppressive medications. A team from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Harvard Medical School, and researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Missouri, developed a novel biomaterial that allows islets to survive transplants without long-term immunosuppression.
In a preclinical research study at MGH, the researchers tested the biomaterial (which includes a novel protein called SAFasL which promotes immune tolerance) in a nonhuman primate model with type 1 diabetes. The mixture was then added to islets, and the material was transferred to the bioengineered pouch made by the omentum. This fold of fatty tissue hangs from the stomach and covers most of the intestines. The animals were given rapamycin for three months after transplantation.
” Our strategy to create an immune-privileged local environment allowed islets the ability to survive without long term immunosuppression. We also achieved robust glucose control in all diabetic non-human primates over a six-month period,” Ji Lei, MD., MBA, lead author, says. Ji Lei is an associate immunologist at MGH as well as an assistant professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School. We believe our method allows transplants to live and manage diabetes for longer than six months, without the need to take anti-rejection medications. All animals were able to quickly return to normal after the surgical removal of transplanted tissue. “
Lei, who is also director of the