Under-The-Skin Implant Reverses Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is a condition that affects approximately 1.25 million Americans across the country, and now, experts have created an under-the-skin implant that can reverse the condition.

With type 1 diabetes, your body lacks the power to make sufficient insulin, a necessary hormone that allows the body to turn blood sugar into energy.

Type 1 diabetes symptoms and signs can strike rapidly, particularly in young children. Some might include increased thirst, frequent urination, excessive appetite, unintentional weight loss, weakness and exhaustion, and impaired vision. It can also bring symptoms like agitation and other mood swings.

A daily insulin injection is required for those with type 1 diabetes, and missing the necessary daily infusion can result in patients feeling unwell. Patients cannot be given pills because the stomach acid would break them down before they could enter the circulation.

However, Cornell University and the University of Alberta scientists recently created an under-the-skin implant for insulin secretion.

Back in 2017, Minglin Ma from Cornell University created a removable nylon thread implant, Thread-Reinforced Alginate Fiber For Islets enCapsulation (TRAFFIC), containing hundreds of thousands of islet cells protected by a thin alginate hydrogel coating that is then inserted into the abdominal cavity.

Fast forward to 2021, the team successfully created a more enhanced implant that could regulate blood sugar in mice for approximately six months.

Through the use of an implanted device containing islets or insulin-secreting cells made from human stem cells, Ma's lab was able to treat diabetes in diabetic mice.

After the under-the-skin implant was shown to be effective, Ma and James Shapiro of the University of Alberta worked together to develop Subcutaneous Host-Enabled Alginate THread (SHEATH).

Implanting SHEATH is a two-step procedure. Initially, a four to six-week placement of a medical-grade nylon catheter under the skin is performed. Around the catheter, a thick network of blood vessels forms due to a regulated foreign-body inflammatory reaction.

After the catheters are taken out, the islet cell-seeded device made of alginate is put into the channel or pocket that has been formed. The surrounding vessels supply the islet cells with the necessary nutrition and oxygen.

With the novel under-the-skin implant, the research team is trying to help those with type 1 diabetes live a more convenient life by replacing daily injections with an implant that can last two to five years.

How to live with type 1 diabetes

While type 1 diabetes isn't something curable, individuals living with it can manage to live a healthy life by making healthy choices, such as:

  • Eating a balanced diet
  • Exercising regularly
  • Managing your blood pressure and cholesterol level


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