Diabetes is a condition resulting from an abnormality in insulin levels, insulin effectiveness or the cell’s inability to respond to insulin. Poor functioning of insulin results in reduced uptake of glucose by cells and hence an increased level of glucose in the blood.
Types of Diabetes:
Type 2-diabetes is caused by an unhealthy lifestyle and can be controlled by insulin injections or diabetic medications. Whereas, Type 1-diabetes is a congenital autoimmune condition resulting from dysfunctional pancreatic cells as the immune system destroys them. Thus, only insulin injections can treat Type 1-diabetes. Insulin injections should be done daily and it also requires constant monitoring of blood glucose levels.
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An alternative more permanent method to treat Type 1-diabetes is pancreatic islet transplantation. However, due to the highly fatal risks of an immune rejection reaction, it is not the first choice in the management of Type 1-diabetes. Patients require long-term use of immunosuppressive medications, which increases their susceptibility to a host of other infectious pathogens. This may soon change as scientists have figured out a way to significantly reduce the immune rejection risks in pancreatic islet transplantation.
According to scientists, covering the pancreatic cells by microcapsules may prevent the provocation of an immune response as the body’s immune system fails to recognize the transplanted cells as foreign bodies.
The disadvantages regarding the new transplant technique
A major drawback in the newly developed concept is the difficulty to encapsulate many pancreatic cells in a volume of microcapsules. This can result in a huge volume of vacant microcapsules, requiring large quantities in order to attain a successful result. However, this large volume again increases the risks of provoking an immune reaction.
How have scientists planned to overcome this drawback?
By using a magnetic system technique, the microcapsules containing the pancreatic islet cells could be separated from the vacant microcapsules. The researchers from the University of the Basque Country, in Spain, recently published their concept in an International Journal of Pharmaceutics paper. According to the paper, they have already tested their theory in rats with success.
The scientists’ induced rats to develop diabetes and then used the magnetically separated filled microcapsules for transplantation. The rats presented with normal blood glucose levels for 17 weeks.
This technique can overcome the two major drawbacks of Pancreatic islet cells transplantation
1. Lack of sufficient donor pancreatic cells: The ability to magnetically filter the vacant microcapsules from the filled microcapsules ensures the complete utilization of the limited pancreatic islet cells.
2. The immune rejection of the transplantation: With the smaller volume of transplanted encapsulated pancreatic cells, the risk for an immune reaction is significantly reduced.
How does the magnetic filter work?
Magnetic nanoparticles are added to the islet cells prior to encapsulation. The microcapsule purification system works by adding magnetic nanoparticles to the islets before microencapsulation. Afterward, a magnetic purifier filters and separates the magnetic islet cell containing microcapsules from the empty non-magnetic capsules. This method proved to be highly efficient as it was able to reduce the volume of islets by almost 80%.