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Nanotherapy Offers New Hope for Treatment of Type 1 Diabetes

People with Type 1 Diabetes must carefully follow prescribed insulin regimens every day, receiving hormone injections via syringe, insulin pump, or other devices. Without viable long-term treatments, this course of treatment is a lifelong sentence.

Pancreatic islets control insulin production when blood sugar levels change, and in Type 1 Diabetes, the body’s immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells. Islet transplantation has emerged over the past few decades as a potential cure for Type 1 Diabetes. With healthy transplanted islets, Type 1 Diabetes patients may no longer need insulin injections, but transplantation efforts have faced setbacks as the immune system continues to reject new islets eventually.

Current immunosuppressive drugs offer inadequate protection for transplanted cells and tissues and are plagued by undesirable side effects. The team of researchers at Northwestern University has discovered a technique to help make immunomodulation more effective.The method uses nanocarriers to re-engineer the commonly used immunosuppressant rapamycin. Using these rapamycin-loaded nanocarriers, the researchers generated a new form of immunosuppression capable of targeting specific cells related to the transplant without suppressing wider immune responses. The paper was published today in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

The Northwestern team is led by Evan Scott, the Kay Davis Professor and an associate professor of biomedical engineering at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and microbiology-immunology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and Guillermo Ameer, the Daniel Hale Williams Professor of Biomedical Engineering at McCormick and Surgery at Feinberg. Ameer also serves as the director of the Center for Advanced Regenerative Engineering (CARE).

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