UCSD, BIMR Logo According to a new study, transplanted pancreatic precursor cells when encased in a material similar to Gore-Tex, seem to be protected from the immune system. Not only this, these cells also seem to get glucose-responsive, along with controlling the blood sugar of an animal. These study findings may be useful for the development of a new approach for the treatment of diseases like Type 1 diabetes. The material used was called polytetrafluorethylene. This discovery was jointly made by the experts from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine and the Burnham Institute for Medical Research.

Type 1 diabetes is said to take place when the body attacks and kills the beta cells which produce insulin, which is also known as the auto-immune response. A shortcoming of cell transplantation therapy to treat diabetes is believed to be the requirement of long term immuno-suppression, which may in turn have certain health risks for the patient. Thus, it is believed that if such transplantations could take place in a protective device, then there may be a lesser need for the use of immuno-suppressive drugs.

Pamela Itkin-Ansari, PhD, assistant adjunct professor, University of California San Diego School of Medicine and Burnham, says that, “This approach may give us the option of hiding cells from the patient’s immune system rather than eliminating the immune system entirely.”

For the purpose of concluding if the cells would be immuno-protected or not, the team was believed to have transplanted mouse islets into other mice. In order to gauge the ability of the cell to survive within the device, human cells were said to have been used in the immuno-suppressed mice. Besides demonstrating that the transplanted cells could survive within the device, it was also shown that the use of precursor cells could improve the success rate of the transplant.

Itkin-Ansari further elucidates that, “The results exceeded our expectations. We had thought that T-cells, although unable to penetrate the device, would cluster around it. But we found no evidence of an active immune response, suggesting that the cells in the device were invisible to the immune system.”

The investigators conclude that by performing the transplant, the vasculature seemed to get affected, due to which cell death appeared to take place within the first week. However when young tissue, which was not completely differentiated was used the transplanted cells regenerated into fully functional beta cells thus making up for the previous loss. The study investigators believe that these findings may indicate the process of how cell derived tissue may be transplanted in the future.

These findings were published in the journal Transplantation.