In the Future, type 1 diabetics won’t need needles to get their daily dose of insulin

insulin cell implants

Diabetes is a lifelong disease and it is making people’s life harder.  Fortunately, there is a way to lower the blood sugar. One of the best way to lower the blood sugar is through injecting insulin into the body.  But the problem with that is that you constantly needed to monitor your blood sugar.  Nowadays, most of us have a busy lifestyle and it is making it harder for diabetics to keep track of their disease. Scientists are looking for innovation that would make it easier for diabetics to get their daily dose of insulin in the body.  Scientist in California believe that there is no need to inject insulin the body anymore as it could be delivered automatically to the body.

Crystal Nyitray, founder and CEO of the biotechnology startup Encellin, in San Francisco, didn’t want to use a machine to treat diabetes. As a graduate student in bioengineering at the University of California, San Francisco a few years ago, Nyitray wanted to try something different: living cells.

“Cells are the ultimate smart machine,” she says. Clinical trials that transplant insulin-making pancreatic cells into people with diabetes have been underway for several years, with some success. But the recipient’s immune system is hard on these transplanted cells, and most patients still need insulin injections eventually.

Nyitray and his colleagues has been working on a solution that would automate the process.  It would encase live islet cells from the pancreas in a flexible membrane that could be implanted under the skin.   Cells from the recipient’s immune system would be kept out, preventing immune rejection.

“I think of it like if you’re sitting in a house and you have the window open with a screen,” Nyitray says. “So you can feel the breeze of the air outside, and smell everything, but the bugs and the flies aren’t able to get through because you have the screen in place.”

She took her idea for building a protective home for insulin-producing cells to Tejal Desai, a professor in bioengineering at UCSF, and Nyitray’s grad school advisor. Desai has had a lot of experience with using membranes to encase cells, and she gave her younger colleague some sobering advice.

Dessai isn’t the first one to try it since there are already several researchers that has tried it before, but they have failed in their endeavor.  One of the problems that they encountered is getting the cells to thrive and live in its new home.

Nyitray keep this in mind, but he didn’t lose hope. Through continuous study, he find out that by using flexible membrane the cells would be kept alive longer thus creating an environment more like the pancreas.

“When she showed me the experiment — where she took islet cells in our devices, and showed that the ones in our devices actually pumped out more insulin and were alive longer — that was what convinced me,” says Desai.

The two of them have tried their research on the lab animals and it has shown some good results.  This is what convince Nyitray to start her own company, Encellin.

This is not the first time that this has been tried before as he San Diego company ViaCyte has already begun trials with its system. And other approaches use porous gels instead of membranes to protect the transplanted cells from immune rejection.  Sadly, no one was able to succeed in this project.