Type 1 diabetes is a life-long disease that occurs when beta cells within the pancreas can no longer produce enough insulin. This causes sugar (glucose) to build up in the blood stream rather than being used by cells for energy. Currently, the only treatment for sufferers is monitoring their blood sugar and injecting insulin daily, which has its challenges. With the aim of restoring insulin production, healthy beta cells made from stem cells were transplanted into a pancreas of a mouse, but its immune system quickly destroyed these new cells. Now researchers have developed capsules made from algae derivatives to shield the beta cells from the immune system (pictured). Cells protected by one derivative called TMTD managed to successfully produce insulin once transplanted, helping to control sugar levels in mice for nearly six months. This groundbreaking research could potentially translate into a life-changing therapy for people with type 1 diabetes.
Written by Katie Panteli
- Image from work by Arturo J Vegas and Omid Veiseh, and colleagues
- David H Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA
- Image copyright held by Nature Publishing Group
- Published in Nature Medicine, January 2016