Researchers look for ways to improve type 1 diabetes treatment

Islet cell transplantation is a promising field of study that many experts believe could one day result in a cure for type 1 diabetes. These cells play an important role in insulin production, and diabetics often have too few.

However, there are currently many obstacles that prevent the procedure from helping more patients with the disease. Researchers are currently working to overcome these hurdles to make islet transplantation a more viable treatment option.

The two biggest impediments to broader islet transplantation are rejection of the donor cells by the immune system of the recipient and the death of islet cells after they have been taken from a donor. Two studies published in the latest issue of the journal Cell Transplantation seek to address these issues.

First, researchers from the Diabetes Research Institute in Milan, Italy, tried to find a way to prevent the body from rejecting donor cells. They said that rather than simply injecting patients directly with islet cells, it may be possible to transplant bone marrow stem cells, which would then differentiate into endothelial cells. The researchers said that these cells are important in the vascular system and are often accompanied by the growth of insulin-producing islet cells.

The second study looked at current methods for keeping islet cells alive between the time of extraction from donors to the delivery to recipients. They said that a combination of many methods that are currently available may help the cells live outside of the body for longer, which can reduce the likelihood of a patient needing a second surgery.

"The survival of islets after isolation remains a significant limiting factor in the field of islet transplantation," said Dr. Rodolfo Alejandro, editor of Cell Transplantation. However, he added that the two studies offer new insights into ways to improve the treatment.