New tissue-engineered platform for islet cell transplantation found effective in type 1 diabetic patients

Researchers from the Diabetes Research Institute (DRI) have produced the clinical results demonstrating that pancreatic islet cells transplanted within a tissue-engineered platform can achieve insulin independence in type 1 diabetes. The research findings are published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Islet cell transplantation omentum minipancreas
Fluorescence microscopy of islets in the omentum transplanted within the biologic scaffold. In red (insulin staining) and blue (DAPI nuclear staining). Credit: Diabetes Research Institute/University of Miami Miller School of Medicine

Islet transplantation is an emerging technology. It has demonstrated the ability to restore natural insulin production and eliminate severe hypoglycemia in people with type 1 diabetes. Traditionally the cells are transplanted into the liver, however, this site poses some limitations so researchers used omentum.

This was the first successful tissue-engineered islet transplantation that has achieved long-term insulin independence in a patient with type 1 diabetes. The biological platform was made by combining donor islets with the patient’s own (autologous) blood plasma, which was laparoscopically layered onto the omentum. Clinical-grade thrombin was then layered over the islet/plasma mixture. The technique has been designed to minimize the inflammatory reaction that is normally observed when islets are implanted in the liver or in other sites with immediate contact to blood.

“The results thus far have shown that the omentum appears to be a viable site for islet implantation using this new platform technique,” said lead author David Baidal, M.D., Assistant Professor of Medicine and member of the DRI’s Clinical Cell Transplant team. “Data from our study and long-term follow-up of additional omental islet transplants will determine the safety and feasibility of this strategy of islet transplantation, but we are quite excited about what we are seeing now.”

Citation: Baidal, David A., Camillo Ricordi, Dora M. Berman, Ana Alvarez, Nathalia Padilla, Gaetano Ciancio, Elina Linetsky, Antonello Pileggi, and Rodolfo Alejandro. “Bioengineering of an Intraabdominal Endocrine Pancreas.” New England Journal of Medicine 376, no. 19 (2017): 1887-889. doi:10.1056/nejmc1613959.
Research funding: Diabetes Research Institute Foundation, JDRF, The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, National Institutes of Health, University of Miami.
Adapted from press release by Diabetes Research Institute (DRI) at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.