According to the site, people with type 1 diabetes have to follow insulin regimens and receive the hormone through different means; The islets of the pancreas (small groups of cells that appear as small spots that differ in shape and function from those around them in the pancreatic cells and are therefore called islets) control the production of insulin when blood sugar levels change, and in type 1 diabetes the immune system attacks the body and destroys these cells producing insulin.
Islet transplantation has emerged over the past few decades as a potential treatment for type 1 diabetes.
With transplanted islets, type 1 diabetics may not need insulin injections, but transplant efforts have faced setbacks, including continued rejection of the new islets by the immune system; Current immunosuppressive drugs provide insufficient protection for transplanted cells and tissues that suffer from unwanted side effects.
In this context, the new discovery is based on an innovative technique to help make immune modulation more effective; The method commonly uses nanocarriers to reengineer the immunosuppressive rapamycin.
Using rapamycin-laden nanocarriers, the researchers created a new form of immunosuppression that is able to target specific cells associated with transplantation without suppressing broader immune responses.
According to Guillermo Amir and Daniel Hill Williams, who specialize in biomedical engineering, the research team worked to improve islet transplant outcomes by providing an engineered environment using biomaterials to improve their survival and function. However, problems associated with conventional systemic immunosuppression have remained a barrier to clinical management of patients.
Rapamycin, commonly used to suppress immune responses during other types of treatment and transplants, has been studied with a wide range of effects on many types of cells throughout the body.
In this, Evan Scott, associate professor of biomedical engineering at the university’s McCormick School of Engineering, Microbiology and Immunology, says he wanted to see how the drug could be improved by putting it into nanoparticles and controlling where it goes in the body. He explained: To avoid the broad effects of rapamycin during treatment, the drug is usually given in low doses and via specific routes, mainly orally. But in the case of transplant, you have to give enough rapamycin to systematically suppress T cells because it can affect hair loss, mouth sores and a weakened immune system.
After the transplant, immune (T) cells reject the newly introduced foreign cells and tissue. Therefore, immunosuppressants are used to suppress this effect. But it can also affect the body’s ability to fight other infections by shutting down T cells throughout the body. Rather than directly modifying T cells, the team formulated the nanocarrier and drug combination to have a more specific effect. The nanoparticles were designed to target and modify antigen-presenting cells (APCs) that allow for more targeted and controlled immunosuppression. The use of nanoparticles also enabled the team to deliver rapamycin through a subcutaneous injection, and it was discovered that it uses a different metabolic pathway to avoid the widespread drug loss that occurs in the liver after oral administration. While this method of administration requires much less rapamycin to be effective (about half the standard dose).
The team tested the hypothesis on mice. The mice were injected with the modified drug, and the injections continued every three days for two weeks. The team noticed minimal side effects in mice and found that diabetes was eliminated throughout the 100-day trial period. But treatment must continue for the life of the implant. The team also showed that the group of mice treated with the nanodrug had a “strong immune response” compared to mice given standard treatments of the drug.
For his part, Amir stresses that, “This approach can be applied to other transplanted tissues and organs, opening up new areas and research options for patients. We are now working to take these very exciting results a step closer to clinical use.”
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