Can Artificial Cells Replace Dead Insulin-Secreting Cells

People with diabetes benefit from advances in controlling blood sugar. Nevertheless, they want a cure. Recently, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced results of a study they funded, that successfully replaced dead insulins cells with artificial beta cells (ABC’s) containing real insulin.

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Insulin: Artificial Beta Cells

Artificial beta cells are specially designed lipid bubbles, which contains hundreds of small, ball-like vesicles filled with insulin. When the AβCs detect a rise in blood glucose, they release insulin until the blood glucose levels return to normal.  The ABC is a large, double-layered vesicle that resembles the outer plasma membrane of a beta cell. A single injection under the skin of mice with type 1 diabetes controlled their blood glucose levels for up to five days.

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Insulin: Results of ABC Therapy

But would the AβCs also work in the body? Researchers injected artificial cells suspended in a water-based gel under the skin of diabetic mice that don’t make insulin. Indeed, within an hour, the animals’ blood glucose reached a normal level, where it remained for several days.

In addition, researchers then injected the mice with a glucose solution. After an initial spike, blood glucose levels returned to normal and at a rate comparable to those seen in healthy mice. Encouragingly, the studies also suggest AβCs are non-toxic to the mice. Within four weeks, the AβCs empty and completely biodegrade without causing an immune response.

 

Insulin: Conclusion

These findings suggest that with additional research, AβC’s may eventually control insulin levels in humans. Even more promising, they might be delivered either through adhesive patches or an injectable gel. The next step is to test the artificial beta cells in a larger animal model and then move on to clinical trials in people. Imagine, no more painful injections.

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