DRC & Research News

This page shares the latest news in T1D research and DRC’s community.

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Exploring the Role of Microorganisms in Glucose Management

Although diabetes has been a topic of research for decades, there are still many unknowns. Researches are always discovering different elements that affect how the disease develops and is managed. Gut bacteria has been a recent area of interest, and researchers at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, have stumbled upon an interesting discovery.

While attempting to study the circadian rhythms of mouse metabolism following depletion of the mouse’s microbiome, they noticed something else intriguing: after being treated with antibiotics to kill off certain microorganisms, they found that the mice were able to more quickly and efficiently process glucose. The colon became enlarged as it took on a more prominent role in absorbing extra sugar, which decreased blood glucose levels. In addition, liver function changed as well, which affected metabolism.

Mice – and humans – all have a microbiome composed of a variety of microorganisms that all play a role in health. While some microbes put mice at greater risk of developing diabetes, some actually decrease this risk. The researchers are looking more closely at how certain bacteria affect the body and its function. They already know that ridding the body of bacteria has a significant impact on a mouse’s metabolism.

The scientists are now developing plans to study what elements in the microbiome affect liver function. According to Satchidananda Panda, senior author on the paper and a professor in the Regulatory Biology Laboratory at the Salk Institute, “Perhaps we could find ways to support the growth of certain gut microbes and induce these changes in glucose regulation in humans. We are now one step closer to translating this research.”

Though there is still a great deal of research that needs to be done before potential treatment options for diabetes emerge, it is a step in the right direction. The Diabetes Research Connection (DRC) follows the latest industry news to see what is on the horizon for diabetes care and treatment. The DRC contributes to advancements in research by providing funding for early career scientists pursuing novel research studies related to type 1 diabetes. Find out more about the organization and how to help by visiting Our Projects.

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Oxygen Supply May be Key in Supporting Islet Transplantation

One of the strategies scientists have focused on in the treatment of type 1 diabetes is transplanting healthy islet cells into the body to naturally produce insulin and manage blood glucose levels. These cells may be lab-generated or come from a donor. However, a major challenge has been conducting these transplants without reliance on immunosuppressants which can compromise overall patient health and complicate treatment.

In order to overcome this obstacle, researchers have created encapsulation devices to protect transplanted islet cells from attack by the body without using immunosuppressants. But with these devices, the lifespan of cells has been limited, in part due to poor oxygen supply. The devices often limit access to oxygen or restrict diffusion.

A new study has found that surrounding islet cells in an oxygen-permeable membrane and equipping the encapsulation device with an oxygen chamber can provide the necessary oxygen supply to keep cells functional and viable. Scientists experimented with varying levels of islet cell surface density and oxygen partial pressure (pO2).  The chamber allowed oxygen to be diffused throughout the highly concentrated alginate slab of islet cells.

The results showed that an average of 88% of islet cells maintained their viability and supported normoglycemic levels when tested in diabetic rats. Due to the continuous diffusion of oxygen, the chamber needs to be refilled daily through a subcutaneous port. Of the 137 rats in the trial, 66 remained normoglycemic for at least eight weeks. Some remained normoglycemic for up to 238 days, at which point the device was electively removed. Upon explanation, rats experienced hyperglycemia. When given intravenous glucose tolerance tests, results from rats with the implanted device were not significantly different than those of non-diabetic rats.

Researchers are currently exploring opportunities to decrease the size of the device while achieving greater islet density and continued viability. This study demonstrates how technology is advancing to create more options for treating and potentially curing type 1 diabetes with fewer complications and undesirable side effects.

Though not involved with this particular study, the Diabetes Research Connection is committed to supporting novel research for type 1 diabetes in an effort to prevent and cure the disease as well as reduce complications and improve quality of life for those living with type 1 diabetes. Visit us online at http://diabetesresearchconnection.org to learn more about current research projects and provide support for these initiatives.

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Stem Cell

Type 1 Diabetes Discovery: Stem Cells Make Millions of Human Insulin Cells

As we are all aware, type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the body destroys insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. Without insulin, the body cannot control glucose, which can lead to high levels of blood sugar that eventually damage tissues and organs. A new study exposes how scientists successfully created billions of insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells from embryonic stem cells.(1)

The Harvard stem cell researchers report how they transplanted the stem cell-derived beta cells into the kidney of a diabetic mouse that showed no signs of the disease after two weeks. The study is a huge advance for patients with type 1 diabetes, and some with type 2 diabetes, many who require daily injections of insulin.

For their new technique to work in people with type 1 diabetes, the researchers must create a mechanism that halts a recipient’s immune system from attacking and destroying the 150 million or so beta cells they would receive. The team is currently collaborating with colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to develop an implant that protects the stem cell-derived beta cells from immune attack.

Stem Cells Diagram

With human embryonic stem cells as a starting point, the scientists were able to produce, in the massive quantities needed for cell transplantation and pharmaceutical purposes, human insulin-producing beta cells that are equivalent in almost every way to normally functioning beta cells.(3) This is the first time this has been done.

The stem-cell-derived beta cells are currently undergoing trials in animal models, including non-human primates. Researchers have attempted to generate human pancreatic beta cells that could be cultured under conditions where they produce insulin. Cell transplantation as a treatment for diabetes is still experimental, using cells from cadavers, requiring the use of powerful immunosuppressive drugs, and having been available to only a small number of patients.

Richard A. Insel, chief scientific officer of JDRF, formerly known as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, said, “JDRF is thrilled with this advancement toward large-scale production of mature, functional human beta cells by Dr. Melton and his team. This significant accomplishment has the potential to serve as a cell source for islet replacement in people with type 1 diabetes, and may provide a resource for discovery of beta-cell therapies that promote survival or regeneration of beta cells and development of screening biomarkers to monitor beta cell health and survival to guide therapeutic strategies for all stages of the disease.”(4)

The work was funded by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, the National Institutes of Health, the JPB Foundation, and Mike and Amy Barry.(4)

Screening for abnormal blood glucose and diabetes

Stem Cell

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