Research Seeks to Improve Nutrient Delivery to Insulin-Producing Cells
There is increasing evidence that oxygen plays a critical role in the development and viability of insulin-producing cells. At the DRI, we are pursuing several strategies to more efficiently deliver oxygen to these cells.
With the assistance of a grant from the Children with Diabetes Foundation, our Tissue Engineering team is further testing the hypothesis that encapsulating islets in microbeads will enhance the cells' viability. The microbeads are capable of improving the migration of oxygen and other nutrients to the cells.
In preliminary studies, we incorporated an oxygen-enhancing compound, perfluorocarbon (PFC) into the microbeads. PFCs are known for their ability to transport oxygen effectively, and in our benchtop studies, helped to deliver oxygen to every corner of the microbead. As a result, the viability of the islets was improved.
In fact, the studies found PFC-incorporated capsules result in a two-fold increase in islet viability over standard capsule methods. Initial experiments also show a significant improvement in the function of these oxygen-enhanced capsules, compared to standard controls.
The Children with Diabetes Foundation grant will allow us to continue pursuing the promise of microbead encapsulation. By enhancing the viability of the insulin-producing cells, fewer islets will be needed for transplant and fewer will be lost to oxygen deprivation after transplantation.