MIT Engineers Develop Implantable Device for Treating Type 1 Diabetes
One promising approach to treating Type 1 diabetes is implanting pancreatic islet cells that can produce insulin when needed, which can free patients from giving themselves frequent insulin injections. However, one major obstacle to this approach is that once the cells are implanted, they eventually run out of oxygen and stop producing insulin.
Generating Oxygen On-Board
To overcome that hurdle, MIT engineers have designed a new implantable device that not only carries hundreds of thousands of insulin-producing islet cells, but also has its own on-board oxygen factory, which generates oxygen by splitting body water vapor.
Successful Testing in Diabetic Mice
The researchers showed that when implanted into diabetic mice, this device could keep the mice’s blood glucose levels stable for at least a month. The researchers now hope to create a larger version of the device, about the size of a stick of chewing gum, that could eventually be tested in people with Type 1 diabetes.
“Living Medical Device”
“You can think of this as a living medical device that is made from human cells that secrete insulin, along with an electronic life support-system. We’re excited by the progress so far, and we really are optimistic that this technology could end up helping patients,” says Daniel Anderson, a professor in MIT’s Department of Chemical Engineering and the senior author of the study.
Potential for Other Diseases
While the researchers’ main focus is on diabetes treatment, they say that this kind of device could also be adapted to treat other diseases that require repeated delivery of therapeutic proteins.
Most patients with Type 1 diabetes have to monitor their blood glucose levels carefully and inject themselves with insulin at least once a day. However, this process doesn’t replicate the body’s natural ability to control blood glucose levels.
- Implantable device with insulin-producing cells and on-board oxygen factory developed by MIT engineers
- Oxygen is generated by splitting water vapor in the body
- Implanted device successfully kept blood glucose levels stable in diabetic mice
- Researchers plan to create a larger version for testing in humans
- Device has potential for treating other diseases that require repeated delivery of therapeutic proteins
Drugs on Demand
This approach could also be used to deliver cells that produce other types of therapeutic proteins that need to be given over long periods of time. In this study, the researchers showed that the device could also keep alive cells that produce erythropoietin, a protein that stimulates red blood cell production.
Future Plans and Possibilities
The researchers plan to adapt the device for testing in larger animals and eventually humans. They also aim to develop an implant that would be about the size of a stick of chewing gum and test its long-term operation in the body.
“We are very excited about these findings, which we believe could provide a whole new way of someday treating diabetes and possibly other diseases,” says Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT and a member of the research team.
- Source: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Journal reference: Stuart, T., et al. (2023) Wireless and battery-free platforms for collection of biosignals. Biosensors and Bioelectronics. doi.org/10.1016/j.bios.2021.113007.