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Research Could Revolutionise Treatment for Type-1 Diabetes

Dr Hani Al-Salami, Curtin’s School of Pharmacy, is leading a research project that could revolutionise the treatment options for people with type-1 diabetes.

Type-1 diabetes is a condition where the immune system destroys cells in the pancreas. It is currently managed with daily tests for glucose levels and insulin injections.

Dr Al-Salami’s project is testing whether microcapsules containing pancreatic cells can be implanted into the body and deliver insulin into the bloodstream.

Microcapsules
The project is testing whether microcapsules containing pancreatic cells can be implanted into the body and deliver insulin into the bloodstream.

“Since 1921, injecting insulin into muscle or fat tissue has been the only treatment option for patients with type-1 diabetes,” Dr Al-Salami said.

“The ideal way to treat the illness, however, would be to have something, like a microcapsule, that stays in the body and works long-term to treat the uncontrolled blood glucose associated with diabetes.

We hope the microcapsules might complement or even replace the use of insulin in the long-term, but we are still a way off. Still, the progress is encouraging and quite positive for people with type-1 diabetes,” he said.

Dr Al-Salami, School of Pharmacy, is leading the research project.
Dr Al-Salami, School of Pharmacy, is leading the research project.

Researchers said the biggest challenge in the project to date had been creating a microcapsule that could carry the cells safely, for an extended period of time, without causing an unwanted reaction by the body such as inflammation or graft failure.

“We are currently carrying out multiple analyses examining various formulations and microencapsulating methods, in order to ascertain optimum engineered microcapsules capable of supporting cell survival and functionality,” Dr Al-Salami said.

Armin Mooranian, PhD student, at work in the lab.
Armin Mooranian, PhD student, at work in the lab.

The research is being conducted in partnership with the University of Western Australia, and the research paper was published in Biotechnology Progress. The paper, Designing anti-diabetic β-cells microcapsules using polystyrenic sulfonate, polyallylamine, and a tertiary bile acid: Morphology, bioenergetics, and cytokine analysis can be accessed here.

Rebecca Negrulj, PhD student, is part of the research team.
Rebecca Negrulj, PhD student, is part of the research team.