In a new clinical trial to observe a new method of pancreatic islet cell injection in a patient with type 1 diabetes, doctors at the Miami University Institute of Diabetes Research confirmed that a test , their first patient no longer needs insulin therapy.
Wendy Peacock, their first patient, injects her insulin and follows a strict daily schedule to treat her diabetes since she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 17 years old. At age 43, Peacock underwent surgery in this new trial and no longer needs injections plus need for injections because her body produces insulin naturally.
Since the minimally invasive procedure in August 2015, she no longer has the dietary restrictions that coincide with type 1 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is caused by the body’s immune system, which is thought to attack harmful bacteria and viruses, and attacks the insulin-producing cells, or the islet cells, that work in the pancreas. Once too much of the islet cells are destroyed, the body will produce little or no insulin, which is needed to decrease the amount of blood sugar in the body.
Insulin allows sugar to enter the cells instead of remaining in the bloodstream, but if all the sugar stays in the blood, it can cause life-threatening complications.
In this new diabetes trial, doctors have created a new method of injecting islet cells into the body.
Instead of injecting them into the liver, which has been done in previous experiments and has proven effective for some time, doctors inject cells into the omentum to create a more permanent solution.
The epiploon is a tissue that surrounds the abdominal organs and the cells are delivered into this tissue with a biodegradable scaffold. The scaffold is produced by mixing the patient’s blood with thrombin, which is a chemical used in surgery to control bleeding.
Thrombin and blood form a gel-like substance that sticks to the epiploon and keeps the islet cells, normally at risk of being rejected or dying, instead. When the gel is absorbed into the body, the islets receive the oxygen and nutrients needed to start producing insulin. Anti-rejection therapy is used with all current patients for this test to ensure that the body will accept islets in the long term.
This clinical trial is part of a larger goal to create a BioHub, which is a “mini” organ meant to mimic the pancreatic functions of the body to effectively cure diabetes.
Although it is not yet a cure, it is a big step in the right direction for those living with type 1 diabetes. Dr. Camillo Ricordi, Director of the DRI and Engineering Professor Biomedical, Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Miami, told Peacock,
“She is like a non-diabetic person but she needs anti-rejection drugs. When you can do it without anti-suppression, then it’s a cure. “
As for Peacock, she said:
“As all type 1 diabetics know, you live with a very structured program. I make a mental checklist every day in my head – glucose tabs, food, glucometer, etc. – and then I stop and say, “WOW! I do not have to plan anymore. It’s surreal for me. I am still treatment because I do not take insulin anymore.