HOUSTON, Texas (Ivanhoe Newswire) – One point six million Americans are living with type 1 diabetes – an autoimmune disease that causes the pancreas to stop producing insulin. Insulin is what helps our bodies control blood sugar levels and without it, people are forced to manage their type 1 diabetes with insulin injections and medications. Now, there’s new hope that could replace the monitors and pumps for good.
Sydnie Stephens-Broussard is a busy 12-year-old.
“She does 16 hours of gymnastics, five hours of volleyball, four hours of track and field, four hours of lacrosse and then, an hour of swim,” Sydnie’s mom, Dee Dee Stephens-Broussard explains.
She does all of this while managing her type 1 diabetes.
Sydnie explains how one of her pumps works.
“It gives me insulin when I’m high.”
Sydnie monitors her glucose levels with her smart phone, and now, bioengineers at Rice University are working on a new implant that would replace these monitors.
“We hope that we can have the body regulate its own blood glucose,” bioengineer at Rice University, Omid Veiseh, tells Ivanhoe.
In type 1 diabetes, a person’s own immune system attacks and kills insulin producing beta cells within the pancreas. Now, researchers are growing beta stem cells in the lab.
Veiseh adds, “We want to use these cells and combine them with innovative tissue engineering strategies that protect them from the hosting immune system.”
A 3D printed hydrogel scaffold protects the cells that are implanted in a patient’s stomach area.
“This mesh keeps the immune cells out and at the same time, nutrients and oxygen, as well as the insulin, can diffuse in and out of these biomaterial constructs,” Veiseh further explains.
Allowing the body to create and regulate its own insulin.
Sydnie says, “My hope about diabetes is, even if there isn’t a cure, that the technology gets better every year.”
So far, the implant has only been tested in mice. Researchers at Rice hope to move it into human trials in the next few years. Each implant would contain a half a billion beta cells, which is the same amount we are all born with, but in type 1 diabetes, those cells have been completely destroyed. Researchers believe the implants would need to be replaced every five years.
Contributors to this news report include: Marsha Lewis, Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer, Editor.
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TOPIC: CLOSE TO A T1D CURE: NEW INSULIN REGULATING IMPLANT
REPORT: MB #5054
BACKGROUND: Type 1 diabetes, previously known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin. Insulin is a hormone needed to allow sugar, otherwise known as glucose, to enter cells to produce energy.
Different factors, including genetics and some viruses, may contribute to type 1 diabetes. Although type 1 diabetes usually appears during childhood or adolescence, it can develop in adults. Despite active research, type 1 diabetes has no cure. Treatment focuses on managing blood sugar levels with insulin, diet and lifestyle to prevent complications.
DIAGNOSING: The signs of diabetes can begin to show early; however, sometimes it takes a while to recognize the symptoms. This can make it seem like signs and symptoms of diabetes appear suddenly, which is why it’s important to pay attention to your body. If you’re experiencing frequent urination your body might be telling you that your kidneys are trying to expel excess sugar in your blood. This resulting dehydration may then cause extreme thirst, and the lack of available fluids may also give you dry mouth and itchy skin. If you experience increased hunger or unexpected weight loss it could be because your body isn’t able to get adequate energy from the food, you eat. High blood sugar levels can affect blood flow and cause nerve damage, which makes healing difficult. So having slow-healing cuts or sores is also a potential sign of diabetes. Yeast infections may occur in men and women who have diabetes because of yeast feeding on glucose.
NEW STUDY: A clinical trial by Vertex Pharmaceuticals continues to test a treatment developed over decades by a scientist who vowed to find a cure after his baby son and then his teenage daughter got the devastating disease. The study will take five years and involves 17 people with severe cases of Type 1 diabetes. The treatment that takes place during the study is not intended as a treatment for the more common Type 2 diabetes.
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