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Harvard scientists have developed a revolutionary new treatment for diabetes

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Researchers recently successfully treated type 1 diabetes by transplanting insulin-producing pancreatic cells into the patient.

University of Missouri scientists team up with Harvard and Georgia Tech to create a new diabetes treatment that involves transplanting insulin-producing pancreatic cells

Type 1 diabetes is estimated to affect approximately 1.8 million Americans. Although type 1 diabetes often develops in childhood or adolescence, it can occur in adulthood.

Despite active research, type 1 diabetes is incurable. Treatment methods include taking insulin, monitoring your diet, managing blood sugar, and exercising regularly. Scientists have also recently discovered a new treatment method that shows promise.

A group of researchers from University of Missouri, Georgia Institute of Technologyand Harvard University has proven the successful use of a new treatment for type 1 diabetes in a large animal model in a new study published in Scientists progress May 13. Their method involves the transfer of insulin-producing pancreatic cells, called pancreatic islets, from a donor to a recipient without the need for long-term immunosuppressive drugs.

According to Haval Shirwan, professor of child health and molecular microbiology and immunology at the MU School of Medicine and one of the study’s lead authors, the immune system of people with type 1 diabetes can malfunction, l causing him to target himself.

“The immune system is a tightly controlled defense mechanism that ensures the well-being of individuals in an environment full of infections,” Shirwan said. “Type 1 diabetes develops when the immune system mistakenly identifies insulin-producing cells in the pancreas as infections and destroys them. Normally, once a perceived danger or threat is eliminated, the command and control mechanism of the immune system kicks in to eliminate any rogue cells. However, if this mechanism fails, diseases such as type 1 diabetes can manifest.

Diabetes impairs the body’s ability to produce or use insulin, a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar metabolism. People with type 1 diabetes are unable to manage their blood sugar levels because they do not produce insulin. This lack of control can lead to life-threatening issues, including heart disease, kidney damage, and vision loss.

Shirwan and Esma Yolcu, professor of child health and molecular microbiology and immunology at MU’s School of Medicine, have spent the past two decades targeting an apoptosis mechanism that prevents “rogue” immune cells from causing the diabetes or rejection of transplanted pancreatic islets by attaching a molecule called FasL to the surface of the islets.

“A type of apoptosis occurs when a molecule called FasL interacts with another molecule called Fas on rogue immune cells, and it causes them to die,” said Yolcu, one of the study’s first authors. “Therefore, our team pioneered a technology that enabled the production of a new form of FasL and its presentation on transplanted pancreatic islet cells or microgels to avoid being rejected by rogue cells. . After transplantation of insulin-producing pancreatic islet cells, the rogue cells mobilize to the graft to be destroyed, but are eliminated by FasL engaging Fas on their surface.

Haval Shirwan and Esma Yolcu Roy Blunt NextGen Building

Haval Shirwan and Esma Yolcu work in their lab in the Roy Blunt NextGen Precision Health building. Credit: University of Missouri

One of the benefits of this new method is the ability to potentially forgo a lifetime of taking immunosuppressive drugs, which neutralize the immune system’s ability to seek out and destroy a foreign object when introduced into the body, such as than an organ, or in this case, a cell, a graft.

“The major problem with immunosuppressive drugs is that they are not specific, so they can have many adverse effects, such as high incidences of cancer development,” Shirwan said. “So using our technology, we found a way to modulate or train the immune system to accept, not reject, these transplanted cells.”

Their method uses technology included in a US patent filed by the University of Louisville and Georgia Tech and has since been licensed by a commercial company that plans to seek FDA approval for human testing. To develop the commercial product, MU researchers collaborated with Andres García and the Georgia Tech team to attach FasL to the surface of microgels with evidence of efficacy in a small animal model. Next, they joined Jim Markmann and Ji Lei from Harvard to evaluate the effectiveness of FasL-microgel technology in a large animal model, which is published in this study.

Haval Shirwan microscope

Haval Shirwan examines a sample under a microscope in his lab in the Roy Blunt NextGen Precision Health building. Credit: University of Missouri

Integrate the power of NextGen

This study represents an important step in the laboratory-to-bedside research process, or how laboratory results are directly integrated into patient use to help treat different diseases and disorders, a hallmark of the MU’s most ambitious research initiative, the NextGen Precision Health Initiative.

Highlighting the promise of personalized healthcare and the impact of large-scale interdisciplinary collaboration, the NextGen Precision Health initiative brings together innovators like Shirwan and Yolcu from across UM and the three other research universities in the UM system in the pursuit of life-changing advances in precision health. This is a collaborative effort to build on MU’s research strengths toward a better future for the health of Missourians and beyond. The Roy Blunt NextGen Precision Health building at MU anchors the overall initiative and expands collaboration between researchers, clinicians and industry partners in the cutting-edge research center.

“I believe that by being in the right institution with access to a large facility like the Roy Blunt NextGen Precision Health building, it will allow us to build on our existing findings and take the necessary steps to further our research and make the improvements needed more quickly. “Yolcu said.

Haval Shirwan and Esma Yolcu

Haval Shirwan and Esma Yolcu. Credit: University of Missouri

Shirwan and Yolcu, who joined the MU faculty in the spring of 2020, are among the first group of researchers to begin work in the NextGen Precision Health building, and after working at MU for nearly two years, they are now among the first NextGen researchers to have a research paper accepted and published in a high-impact, peer-reviewed academic journal.

Reference: “FasL microgels induce immune acceptance of islet allografts in non-human primates” by Ji Lei, María M. Coronel, Esma S. Yolcu, Hongping Deng, Orlando Grimany-Nuno, Michael D. Hunckler, Vahap Ulker, Zhihong Yang, Kang M Lee, Alexander Zhang, Hao Luo, Cole W. Peters, Zhongliang Zou, Tao Chen, Zhenjuan Wang, Colleen S. McCoy, Ivy A. Rosales, James F. Markmann, Haval Shirwan, and Andrés J. Garcia, May 13, 2022, Scientists progress.
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abm9881

Funding was provided by grants from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (2-SRA-2016-271-SB) and the National Institutes of Health (U01 AI132817), as well as a postdoctoral fellowship from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and a graduate of the National Science Foundation. Fellowship. The content is the sole responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the funding bodies.

The study authors would also like to thank Jessica Weaver, Lisa Kojima, Haley Tector, Kevin Deng, Rudy Matheson, and Nikolaos Serifis for their technical contributions.

Potential conflicts of interest are also noted. Three of the study authors, García, Shirwan and Yolcu, are the inventors of a U.S. patent application filed by the University of Louisville and Georgia Tech Research Corporation (16/492441, filed February 13, 2020). Additionally, García and Shirwan are co-founders of iTolerance, and García, Shirwan and Markmann serve on iTolerance’s Scientific Advisory Board.


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