Research into a possible cure for type 1 diabetes has taken an "important step forward," according to the latest research by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University.
The study, which was published in journals Nature Medicine and Nature Biotechnology on Monday, builds on work by the Harvard Stem Cell Institute which last year discovered a way of creating beta cells (whose primary function is to store and release insulin) which could then be implanted in mice and, it is hoped in future, humans with diabetes.
Now, in the latest development, scientists and researchers at MIT and Harvard, in collaboration with other university experts, have developed an implantable device that could prevent those implanted insulin-producing cells from being attacked by the immune system for six months – effectively allowing the insulin-producing cells to do their job.
Diabetes is a lifelong condition that causes a person's blood sugar (glucose) level to become too high. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system kills off the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. Daily injections of insulin are the primary treatment, but are only partially successful in regulating patients' metabolism.
If a device could be implanted into diabetics that could prevent those insulin-producing cells from being attacked, it could be a huge leap forward in terms of research. The results could have an impact on health provision around the world as diabetes ranks as one of the leading causes of death in America.
Type 1 diabetes differs from type 2, where the pancreas doesn't produce enough insulin, or the body's cells don't react to insulin. Pregnant women can also develop a usually more short-term form of gestational diabetes.