Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Insulin Islands
11 August 2014

Insulin Islands

They make look a bit like frog spawn, but these delicate transparent spheres could one day become a treatment for type 1 diabetes. People with this disease have problems with the cells in their pancreas that usually produce insulin, a chemical that controls the levels of sugar in their blood. Transplanting replacement insulin-producing cells into diabetics could help but recipients must have their immune system suppressed for the rest of their lives. This prevents their body rejecting the transplant, but can cause significant health problems over time. Now scientists have worked out how to trap pancreatic cells inside these tiny jelly-like spheres, which don't get attacked by the immune system but can still release insulin in response to rising sugar levels. Tests in mice have been very promising so far, and the researchers hope their technique can be taken forward to help people with diabetes in the future.

Written by Kat Arney

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