Macrophages Cells

Use of a human protein, CXCL12, has been shown to increase the effectiveness of encapsulated islet cells within animals.

Encapsulated islet cells are an experimental form of treatment for type 1 diabetes. The technology involves implanting live islet cells, which are contained within a protective capsule, into the body. The aim of the protective capsule is to prevent the body’s immune system from attacking the islet cells. In type 1 diabetes, the immune system mistakenly attacks insulin producing islet cells and therefore the aim of the protective capsule is to prevent the body’s immune system’s attack.

The latest research comes from Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard University, Dr. Mark Poznansky, who has been studying CXCL12 for more than a decade. His initial introduction to the protein came from studying immune responses in HIV and ovarian cancer. When applied to encapsulated islet cells, the protein enhances the protective effect of the capsule by surrounding the capsule and then repelling immune cells that might attack the growing islet cells.

Over 300 days without insulin

In the latest study, Poznansky’s research team tested the effects of encapsulated islet cells, with and without the CXCL12 protein. Animals with type 1 diabetes receiving encapsulated islet cells without the protein reverted back to having type 1 diabetes within 50 days whereas animals receiving encapsulated islet cells with the CXCL12 protein were insulin independent for more than 300 days.

The research is being supported by the JDRF as part of their encapsulation research program and Dr. Poznansky’s team will receive a $1.6 million grant from the JDRF in order to continue their research in further animal studies.

Encapsulated islet cell treatment represents a strong hope for a future without regular insulin administration for people with type 1 diabetes. Trials are already underway to test the effectiveness of encapsulated islet cells in humans and research to increase the effectiveness of the therapy is a vital part in helping the treatment to become a reality.