Diabetes: Islet Cell Transplantation Under the Skin a Possible Alternative to Insulin Injections

Diabetes Mellitus (DM) is a metabolic disease that results in high blood sugar which can be detrimental to one’s health in both, short term and the long term. Depending on the pathophysiology and etiology of the disease, it is usually typed into Diabetes Mellitus type 1 and Diabetes Mellitus type 2.

Diabetic Obese Person

Diabetic Obese Person

DM type 1 is a hereditary disorder that occurs due to the complete absence of insulin in the body. In diabetes type 1, an autoimmune reaction against pancreatic islet cells results in the destruction of these cells. These cells produce the hormone insulin which is responsible for the uptake of glucose by the cells in the body. Since islet cells are destroyed, no insulin is produced and glucose is not taken up by the cells, thus resulting in high blood glucose levels.

Read Also: Diabetes: Researchers Make a Breakthrough in Finding a Permanent Cure

The treatment of diabetes mellitus type 1 requires regular insulin injections to make up for the lack of insulin in the body. Although it acts as a replacement in the body, daily injections can be uncomfortable for the patients.

Researchers have been trying to find alternatives to regular insulin injections. One such attempt included transplantation of islet cells, the cells which are destroyed in type 1 diabetes, directly into the liver. When this theory was applied using animal models, they found that the transplanted cells didn’t survive for long. Furthermore, these cells caused liver inflammation.

Another attempt at solving the problem of insulin injection involved the transplantation of islet cells directly under the skin. The application of this theory on animal models showed that these cells also didn’t survive for a long time. However, the reason behind the failure of under the skin transplantation was the lack of oxygen supply to the transplanted islet cells.

Read Also: Type 1 Diabetes: Transplanting Pancreatic Cells Without Anti Rejection Drugs May Soon Be Possible

The solution to under-the-skin transplantation failure

A new study conducted by Ali Naji, MD, Ph.D., and his team was recently published in the Nature Metabolism Journal. In this study, the researchers have tried to solve the problem of reduced oxygen supply to the islet cell allografts under the skin. They successfully created a collagen-based matrix around the allograft, hence protecting the islet cells and ensuring proper oxygen supply for the cells. The exact mechanism by which the matrix functions are not properly understood.

Researchers transplanted these allografts, received from humans, pigs, and mice, encased in a collagen-based matrix to 100 diabetic mice. The results were remarkable with researchers noting the survival of subjects for 100 days without insulin injections.

However, Ali Naji and his team only transplanted the collagen encased allografts to mice, and recommend more studies to be performed for the application of these in humans. They do not know if it would work in humans as they couldn’t evaluate the reaction of the human immune system to these matrix encased allografts.

Read Also: The Latest Pancreatic Islet Cell Transplantation Technique Could Cure Type 1-Diabetes

The successful transplantation of collagen matrix encased allografts in diabetic mice is the first step towards the treatment of insulin-deficient diabetes. Further studies are required to understand the process by which this matrix works and the effect it can potentially have on the human body.


Islet transplantation in the subcutaneous space achieves long-term euglycemia in preclinical models of type 1 diabetes

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