Minglin, Ma , PhD
Bio-inspired design of a clinically translatable islet encapsulation system for type 1 diabetes
General Research Subject: Type 1 Diabetes
Focus: Clinical Therapeutics/New Technology, Clinical Therapeutics/New Technology\Insulin Delivery Systems, Other, Transplantation
Type of Grant: Junior Faculty
Project Start Date: July 1, 2013
Project End Date: June 30, 2016
Diabetes Type: Type 1 diabetes
Type 1 diabetes develops when the body's immune system attacks its own pancreatic islet beta cells, the only cells that produce insulin. Encapsulation and transplantation of islets represents an extremely promising way to control the blood glucose and reverse the diabetes. Islets obtained from donors or one day derived from stem cells are encapsulated in a biomaterial and transplanted into patients. The biomaterial is designed to allow mass transfer of nutrients, oxygen as well as the glucose and insulin but not the immune cells or molecules that may kill the encapsulated islets. Because of the protection from the biomaterial, the long term use of immunosuppressive drugs that are required for organ transplants and known to cause deleterious side effects can be avoided.
While the concept of islets encapsulation has been proven in many different animal models, significant challenges still exist and must be addressed before it can proceed to clinics. One major challenge is the lack of a translatable encapsulation system that is (1) easy to transplant, (2) durable in function and (3) convenient to retrieve or replace. This project is proposed to address this challenge by developing a new islets encapsulation system that meets the aforementioned three basic clinical requirements. If successful, this project will revolutionize the islets encapsulation field and make it a viable therapy for type 1 diabetes.
What area of diabetes research does your project cover? What role will this particular project play in preventing, treating and/or curing diabetes?
My project aims to develop a new and better treatment of type 1 diabetes using cell-based therapy. The general idea is to put the pancreatic islets obtained from donors or insulin-producing cells derived from stem cells in an immuno-isolation device and transplant it into type 1 diabetic patients. This particular project if successful will lead to a superior device and help advance this cell encapsulation idea to clinical reality.
If a person with diabetes were to ask you how your project will help them in the future,
how would you respond?
Current treatments of type 1 diabetes depend on daily insulin injections or insulin pumps. In the future, my project may change that. With a simple transplant of immunoisolated islets or beta cells, the patients may no longer have to constantly use needles or wear pumps. The transplanted cells will do their job in the body and automatically regulate the body's blood glucose level. Because of the immune-protection from the device, the patients do not need to take immunosuppressive drugs either.
Why is it important for you, personally, to become involved in diabetes research? What role will this award play in your research efforts?
Diabetes, particularly type 1 diabetes, is a tough disease and affects many children. Personally, I hope to devote my career to making a difference in the treatment of this disease and helping those affected especially the children. I am extremely grateful for the support from American Diabetes Association. This award will certainly give me the confidence and provide me with a step stone to advance my career goal.
In what direction do you see the future of diabetes research going?
The future of diabetes research will rely upon collaborations of people from many different disciplines. As the biological understanding of the disease improves, physical science, chemistry and engineering will all be needed to develop new therapies and ultimately find a cure.
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