A groundbreaking development in the treatment of type 1 diabetes has been made by a team of engineers at MIT. They have designed an implantable device that not only carries insulin-producing cells but also has its own onboard oxygen factory. This could potentially free patients from the need to frequently inject insulin.
One of the major challenges in treating type 1 diabetes is that once pancreatic islet cells are implanted, they eventually run out of oxygen and stop producing insulin. However, the new device developed by MIT engineers overcomes this hurdle by generating oxygen through splitting water vapor found in the body.
When tested on diabetic mice, the device successfully maintained stable blood glucose levels for at least a month. The researchers now plan to create a larger version of the device, about the size of a stick of gum, which can be tested in people with type 1 diabetes.
The device can be seen as a living medical device made up of human cells that secrete insulin, along with an electronic life support system. Daniel Anderson, professor at MIT and lead author of the study, expressed optimism about this technology’s potential to help patients.
While the primary focus is on treating diabetes, this approach could also be adapted to treat other diseases that require repeated administration of therapeutic proteins.
The key advantage of this device is its ability to generate oxygen indefinitely without requiring external cables or batteries. It uses resonant inductive coupling to wirelessly transfer power from an external coil patch on the patient’s skin to a small antenna inside the device. The process involves splitting water vapor into hydrogen and oxygen using a proton exchange membrane located within the device.
During testing on diabetic mice, one group received the oxygen-generating device while another group received a non-oxygenated version containing islet cells. The mice implanted with the oxygen-generating device were able to maintain normal blood glucose levels compared to healthy animals. In contrast, those with non-oxygenated devices became hyperglycemic within two weeks.
The device’s success in controlling blood glucose levels suggests that insulin can still diffuse out of the device and glucose can enter it, despite the formation of scar tissue around the implant. This offers hope for its potential use in delivering cells that produce other therapeutic proteins, such as erythropoietin.
The researchers now plan to test the device on larger animals and eventually humans. They aim to develop an implant about the size of a stick of gum for human use and investigate its long-term viability.
These findings have been funded by JDRF, the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, and the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering of the National Institutes of Health.
According to MIT News, this breakthrough could revolutionize diabetes treatment by providing an injection-free method to control blood glucose levels. The development also holds promise for treating other diseases requiring long-term administration of therapeutic proteins.
Source: (MIT News)(https://news.mit.edu/2023/implantable-device-enable-injection-free-control-diabetes-0918)