Super-Grafts To Treat Diabetes
The absence of functional insulin-producing cells characterizes severe Type 1 Diabetes. The last resort to treat severe type 1 diabetes is pancreatic cell transplantation. The islets are removed from a donor’s pancreas, isolated, and then re-injected into the patient’s liver.
It takes multiple donors to treat one person. Additionally, there is an acute shortage of donors.
The pancreas contains cell clusters called the islets of Langerhans. These are particular types of cells that produce blood glucose regulating hormones that are grouped. However, the transplant process is long and complicated: a significant part of the grafted cells die quickly without being able to engraft.
Scientists at the University of Geneva (UNIGE) & the Geneva University Hospitals (HUG) have discovered a new strategy to treat Severe Type 1 Diabetes. They have created a more robust super-islets of Langerhans. Once transplanted, more of them engraft. Then these super islets start producing insulin much more rapidly.
Super-Grafts To Treat Diabetes- What are its Advantages Of Using This Super-Graft?
The Super grafts not only improve the success of cell transplants but also offer new perspectives for other types of transplants.
To improve the precisions of islet transplantation and the survival of transplanted cells, scientists have sought to create new, more robust super islets that would withstand the stress of transplantation better than natural islet cells. To do this, they came up with the idea of adding amniotic epithelial cells, taken from the wall of the inner placental membrane to the pancreatic cells.
Thierry Berney, Professor in the Department of Surgery at UNIGE Faculty of Medicine and Head of HUG Transplant Division, said that these cells are very similar to stem cells and are already being used in other therapies, such as corneal repair.
Super-Grafts To Treat Diabetes- What are the Steps Involved To Create The Super-Graft?
The first step took place in vitro conditions: the addition of amniotic epithelial cells, allowed the cell clusters to form regular spheres, indicating better intracellular communication & connectivity.
The second step in vivo conditions: the researchers transplanted their “super-islets” of Langerhans into diabetic mice, that quickly began to produce insulin.
Fanny Lebreton, a scientist at the Department of Surgery at UNIGE Faculty of Medicine and the first author of this work, said that even with few cell clusters, the super islets adapted very well to their new environment and vascularized quickly.
A good vascularization is indeed the critical element of any transplantation. It allows to supply the new organ with oxygen and nutrients and guarantees their survival. Besides, the artificial islets quickly began to produce insulin.
Super-Grafts To Treat Diabetes- What makes these super grafts unique?
Amniotic epithelial cells are essential to islet survival. They seem to act on two crucial elements- the lack of oxygen, which usually kills a large number of transplanted islets, & the modulation of the host immune system to limit the risk of rejection.
The protective mechanism, observed here on cell transplants, could also take place in other types of transplants or even in xenotransplantation- where non-human cells or organs are transplanted into humans.