Exploring Collagen as a Minimally Invasive Approach to Managing Type 1 Diabetes

Posted in Diabetes Research News

Diabetes management is a full-time job. Individuals with type 1 diabetes (T1D) don’t get a day off; they must be constantly monitoring their blood sugar and administering insulin as necessary. There are many devices that can assist with this process, but it is still a constant concern. However, researchers from Purdue University and the Indiana University School of Medicine may have developed a new approach that could manage glucose levels for up to 90 days at a time.

By combining pancreatic cells with collagen – a natural protein in the body already – they may be able to decrease rejection and enhance insulin independence. Previous methods have focused on injecting islet cells directly into the pancreas because it has a strong blood flow to transport insulin and glucose.  This tends to be a rather invasive procedure, though, and the body still destroys a significant portion of the transplanted islet cells.

This new treatment is administered under the skin just like other injections. The collagen solution solidifies and the body recognizes the collagen, so it does not destroy it. Instead, it provides blood flow that helps transport the insulin released by the islet cells contained within the solution. The procedure is minimally invasive and could be done in an office setting rather than an operating room.

Initial studies were conducted on mice, and now the researchers are ready to test this approach on naturally diabetic dogs and eventually humans.  Diabetes occurs in dogs very similarly to how it does in humans. The researchers will work with the College of Veterinary Medicine at Purdue for these clinical trials.

In mice with diabetes, pre-clinical trials found that diabetes was reversed for at least 90 days when a twin mouse donor was used to collect islet cells, and at least 40 days when a non-twin mouse donor was used for islet cells.  In addition, virtually all of the cells survived the transplant regardless of donor type. This could potentially eliminate the need for multiple donors which are required for current treatments due to the destruction of transplanted cells by the immune system. Giving individuals with T1D a shot every 40 to 90 days to maintain blood sugar could provide a great deal more freedom than they currently have.

It is these types of studies that have the potential to change the lives of individuals living with T1D for the better. Researchers have made significant advancements over the years in better understanding the disease and developing treatment strategies that could lead to an eventual cure. Diabetes Research Connection (DRC), though not involved in this study, is interested to see how the clinical trials progress and what it could mean for the future of diabetes management.

DRC is committed to supporting early career scientists pursuing novel research studies on type 1 diabetes to prevent and cure the disease as well as improve quality of life and minimize complications. Mainstream funding is highly competitive, and the DRC gives young researchers another option for receiving the support they need to drive projects forward. To learn more about current projects and support these efforts, visit http://diabetesresearchconnection.org.