One Step Closer to a Diabetes Cure
Adelaide researchers at the Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH) are in the process of developing an implantable ‘SIM card’ that if successful will become a drug-free cure for type 1 diabetes.
This card, which would contain insulin-producing cell islets harvested from donor pancreases, would be implanted in diabetic children and ultimately end not only the daily injections but the risk of hypoglycaemic episodes.
“We are looking at an implant device, a little like a SIM card, with special islets,” said Professor Toby Coates, Director of Kidney and Islet Transplantation at the RAH.
Whilst Professor Coates has proved islet transplantation is successful, until now the issue has been that only patients who suffer from extreme cases of ‘hypo’ episodes can qualify for the transplant due to the side effects of anti-rejection drugs.
The developed SIM card would include a ‘super islet’ that is capable of fending off a patient’s natural immune reaction to a foreign body and therefore allow potentially all people with type 1 diabetes to have access to the cure.
“We are looking at a protocol of transplanting the islets without using drugs, partly based on modifying the islets themselves,” Professor Coates said.
“There is a protein called A20, which is an anti-inflammatory molecule which if over expressed in islets can make them resistant to rejection so you don’t need immunosuppression drugs.
“If it succeeds you could absolutely expand the number of people this could be applied to. Down the track we would be looking at using this approach as an effective cure for children diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
“We have to weigh up the side effects of drugs because most people can keep their condition under control using the conventional approach.”
Building on a decade worth of research into a drug-free approach to curing diabetes, Professor Coates and his team will be able to launch patient trials of this SIM card over the next three years.