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Breakthrough! New implant that will end diabetes ...trial on type 1 patients starts.

A pouch that's implanted under the skin has the potential to 'cure' diabetes, say researchers.

The size of a credit card, the implant contains tiny tubes which can be injected with cells that produce the hormone insulin.

Research has shown that blood vessels grow into and around the pouch and help the cells mature - essentially creating a fully functional organ that can produce insulin and control blood sugar levels.

Researchers in the U.S. are now starting a trial with patients with type 1 diabetes.

Type 1, which affects more than 300,000 people in the UK, occurs when the immune system attacks the islet cells in the pancreas which produce insulin. As a result, the pancreas produces little or none of the hormone.

With type 2 diabetes, insulin production drops, or the cells become resistant to its effects, so blood sugar levels remain high and eventually damage capillaries that feed major organs and obstruct blood flow, causing irreversible damage.

For years, the only treatments for type 1 diabetes have been regular insulin injections, often several times a day, or insulin pumps.

Nearly 30 per cent of patients with type 2 diabetes also need insulin injections to control the disease. But injecting insulin can be inconvenient and is not a cure.

Islet cell transplants have been performed for more than a decade - they usually involve injecting cells from deceased donors into a vein in the liver - but research suggests that not all the transplanted islets survive, and that most patients require more than one transplant. The patient must then take anti-rejection drugs for the rest of their life.

The pouch implant overcomes these problems because it effectively becomes an insulin-generating organ in itself and its cells are protected from an immune system attack, so patients don't need anti-rejection drugs.

It is made from a special polymer material which is safe to use in the body and does not break down. Pores in its surface help blood vessels develop in it and it has tiny tubes in which the transplanted cells are placed. A special coating prevents it from being attacked by the immune system.

The treatment involves two procedures. First, under general anaesthetic, the pouch is implanted under the skin of the abdomen and left for around three weeks to allow blood vessels and tissue to grow into it.

The treatment has also been shown to be safe in humans. The islet cells were able to produce insulin and link up to the circulatory system. It is now being tested in patients with type 1 diabetes.

Researchers suggest the technique may be used for other chronic diseases in future, such as haemophilia and Parkinson's disease, which result from a lack of specific compounds.

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Publication:Ghanaian Chronicle (Accra, Ghana)
Date:Jul 26, 2018
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