A Cell Encapsulation System for Treating Diabetes

Georgia Institute of Technology, 2010 - $16,500

Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce enough or cannot properly use insulin, the protein required for the body to absorb glucose from the blood. Transplantation of live islet cells (the pancreatic cells responsible for producing insulin) has been studied as a method for curing diabetes, but donor islet cells that are transplanted into patients are attacked by the immune system, causing transplant rejection. There is a relatively low islet transplant success rate, even when using immunosuppressant drugs.

This team is developing a new solution: encapsulating the islet cells in a biocompatible hydrogel membrane. The cell encapsulation system will allow glucose and insulin to diffuse through freely, but Immunoglobulin G and white blood cells will not be able to pass through, effectively “hiding” the islet cells from the immune system. With this implantable device, diabetics will no longer have to deal with the hassle and pain of testing their blood glucose up to four times a day, calculating the correct amount of insulin, and injecting themselves.