New developments in diabetes technology could change the lives of millions of people with insulin-dependent diabetes.
On Tuesday, Israel’s Betalin Therapeutics announced progress in creating a “miniature pancreas.” This experimental treatment, which is still in preclinical testing, could eventually free people with insulin-dependent diabetes from their ongoing dependence on insulin injections.
“This could be the basis for solving the burden of people with type 1 diabetes,” Professor Peter Schwartz, a member of Betalin’s advisory board and president-elect of the International Diabetes Federation, said in the company’s video. rice field. “We have a huge opportunity to impact patient quality of life, socially, economically and medically.”
About 8.5 million people worldwide suffer from type 1 diabetes, formerly known as juvenile diabetes. Type 1 can affect both children and adults and involves an autoimmune reaction in which the patient’s own immune system destroys the pancreas’ ability to produce insulin.
Difference Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is different from the more common type 2 diabetes, which affects more than 500 million people worldwide.
Type 2 is a metabolic disorder in which the patient’s body cannot effectively utilize the insulin it produces. In type 1 of the disease, the body produces little or no insulin.
People with type 2 diabetes can become insulin dependent over time when their pancreas fails to produce enough insulin. This can be caused by the progressive nature of the disease, in which prolonged high blood sugar levels exhaust or destroy pancreatic cells. Insulin therapy is needed when blood sugar levels cannot be maintained with oral medications, diet, and exercise alone. This insulin-dependent state is also called “insulin-requiring” type 2 diabetes.
Using an insulin pump
In wealthy countries, one of the most common treatments for insulin-dependent diabetes is insulin pumps. This pump continuously infuses insulin through a device placed under the patient’s skin.
Most pump users have multiple blood tests daily to monitor blood sugar, count carbohydrates, and tell the pump how much insulin to inject consistently.
Insulin pumps are expensive and therefore not widely used in middle-income and poor countries.
But even with a pump, daily life for insulin-dependent diabetics is complicated.
“The main problem is the deterioration of quality of life. [diabetes] Dr. Racheli Ofir, chief technology officer and co-CEO of Betalin, told Medialine.
One alternative to insulin pumps is islet cell transplantation. In this operation, a surgeon transplants pancreatic cells from a cadaver into the patient. However, lack of donors and variability in the quality of donated cells limit the viability of this therapy.
Researchers have used stem cells to replace lost or damaged beta cells, but the challenge is that they are small and difficult to engraft in patients.
“Even if you inject perfect cells, the success rate is not high,” Ofir says. Because “cells are friendly creatures. They need an environment, they have to have other cells next to them, they have to stick to something.”
To address this, Betalin has developed a scaffold made of animal tissue that holds the transplanted beta cells in place and provides an environment conducive to cell growth.
To build the scaffold, researchers harvest lung tissue from pigs. A process of decellularization is used to shape, cut and wash the tissue. This helps remove cellular remnants from the tissue while preserving the function and integrity of the extracellular matrix.
The matrix is ”the network and home for every cell,” Noam Mizrahi, manager of the Betalin Institute, told Medialine. The matrix is ”the network we want to maintain,” so “we have to make sure it’s not destroyed or altered.” Become.”
Betalin has achieved preclinical results both in vitro and in animals such as mice and pigs using pancreatic islet cells. The next step is to achieve similar results with stem cells, which will require collaboration with other companies.
“We’re home. If you take us home and use someone else’s stem cells or islets, together we’ll make a small pancreas,” explained Betalin CEO Dr. Moty Friedman.
The small Israeli startup, which continues to research and develop, hopes one day it will be able to offer a new diabetes treatment.
“This is visionary but doable, and we are getting closer and closer to treating millions of people with diabetes. Told.
Hannah Levin is a student at Northwestern University and an intern in Media Line’s Journalism and Policy Student Program.