Science Closer to Creating Large Batches of Insulin Producing Cells

by Barbara Hewitt on April 20, 2015

Scientists are a step closer to being able to create large numbers of insulin producing cells that could eliminate the need for type 1 diabetics to inject.

Leading diabetes charity JDRF has announced that researchers have found a protein that can protect insulin producing beta cells from the immune system, potentially paving the way for beta cell transplants that don’t require anti-rejection drugs.

cellsProfessor Mark Poznansky and his team at Massachusetts General Hospital in the United States have been studying the protein, known as CXCL12, for many years because of its role in the immune system. It has a repellent effect that drives immune cells away from the area where they are produced so that they can fight infection in the rest of the body.

The team then turned this effect on its head, using the protein to repel the immune cells from the beta cells they mistakenly try to attack in type 1 diabetes. When they encased beta cells in a gel coating that contained the protein, and implanted them into mice with type 1, the researchers found the mice produced their own insulin for at least 300 days.

This was over six times longer than in mice where the cells’ gel coating did not contain any of the protein, the researchers pointed out.

If the work continues to prove successful, it could be used alongside other JDRF beta cell research to generate large numbers of implantable, insulin producing cells that are kept safe from the immune system.

This concept, known as encapsulation, would offer people with type 1 the opportunity to regain their insulin producing cells, eliminating the need for insulin injections and carb counting.

‘The encouraging picture painted by our studies to date has led us to the next step in our research. JDRF is now funding a two year pilot study to investigate whether this approach of including CXCL12 in the gel capsule will work when greater numbers of capsules are implanted into larger animals,’ said Professor Poznansky.

‘One of the most exciting aspects of CXCL12 is that, if the protein proves safe and effective, its applications could go beyond use in encapsulated cell therapies,’ he explained.

‘It might also be useful in developing drugs to block the autoimmune attack on still active beta cells in the early stage of the condition, slowing or ultimately preventing the progression to insulin dependency,’ he added.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Ivan June 6, 2018 at 12:41 pm

April 2015 report made, is there any progress?


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