MIT has created live drug factories that produce insulin for the body. In their work, scientists have created a new type of implantable cells that can overcome rejection by the host’s immune system to continue to produce hormones directly inside the body. The study is published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.
Insulin is a hormone that plays a central role in controlling the level of circulating glucose – the “fuel” used by cells. Violation of this interaction leads, for example, to type I and type II diabetes mellitus – a disease during which the body’s cells lose their ability to respond to the hormone. As a result, the level of glucose in the blood can become dangerous, and the pancreas will not be able to produce it enough to compensate.
To treat these diseases, scientists sometimes resort to the so-called transplantation of islet cells of the pancreas. These cells in patients with diabetes allow the body to fulfill its traditional role and negate the need for regular insulin injections.
This method is not widely used since in a large number of cases the human immune system begins to struggle with implanted cells, which leads to complications.
In a new study, scientists found a solution to this problem. Their method is to seal the cells inside the protective shell of a silicon-based elastomer in combination with a porous membrane. These pores are large enough so that nutrients, oxygen, and insulin can move freely through the membrane, but are small enough not to let in immune cells that tend to attack the cell.
During the testing of the technology, scientists performed a cell transplant to mice. The study showed that the technology helped maintain healthy blood glucose levels in rodents for more than 10 weeks.