(WNDU) – 1.6 million Americans are living with type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease that causes the pancreas to stop producing insulin. Insulin is what helps our bodies to control blood sugar levels.
Without it, people are forced to manage their type 1 diabetes with insulin injections and medications. Now, there’s new hope that could replace the monitors and pumps for good.
Sydnie Stevens is a busy, busy 12-year-old.
“She does 16 hours of gymnastics. She does five hours of volleyball. She does four hours of track and field and four hours of lacrosse and then, an hour of swim,” said Dee Dee Stephens-Broussard, Sydnie’s mom.
She does all of this while managing her type 1 diabetes.
“This one is my pumps. It gives me insulin when I’m high,” Sydnie said.
Sydnie’s monitors her glucose levels with her smart phone, and now, bioengineers at Rice University are working on a new implant that would replace these monitors.
“We hope that we can have the body regulate its own blood glucose,” said Omid Veiseh, PhD, a bioengineer at Rice University.
In type 1 diabetes, a person’s own immune system attacks and kills insulin producing beta cells within the pancreas. Now, researchers are growing beta stem cells in the lab.
“We want to now, use these cells, combine them with innovative tissue engineering strategies that protect them now from the hosting immune system,” Dr. Veiseh continued.
This 3D printed hydogel scaffold protects the cells that are implanted in a patient’s stomach area.
“This mesh keeps the immune cells out and at the same time, nutrients and oxygen, as well as the insulin, can diffuse in and out of these biomaterial constructs,” Dr. Veiseh said.
This allows the body to create and regulate its own insulin.
“My hope about diabetes is, even if there isn’t a cure that the technology gives better every year,” Sydnie finished.
A clinical trial by Vertex Pharmaceuticals continues to test a treatment developed over decades by a scientist who vowed to find a cure after his baby son and then his teenage daughter got the devastating disease.
The study will take five years and involves 17 people with severe cases of Type 1 diabetes. The treatment that takes place during the study is not intended as a treatment for the more common Type 2 diabetes.
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