Insulin producing islet cells

DRI BioHub

One of the Institute's major scientific initiatives is the development of the DRI BioHub, a bioengineered mini-organ that mimics the pancreas. The BioHub builds upon decades of cure-focused research and is a strategy that addresses major research challenges that stand in the way of a biological cure for type 1 diabetes. 

DRI scientists and collaborators have already shown that islet transplantation can restore natural insulin production in people with type 1 diabetes. Some DRI islet transplant recipients have been living without the need for insulin injections for more than a decade, but this life-changing cell replacement therapy remains limited to the most severe cases of T1D. DRI scientists are now advancing promising research initiatives with the goal of overcoming these hurdles and offering this freedom to all who need it. 

BioHub Strategy: 3 Research Areas

The BioHub strategy can best be grouped into three principal avenues of research, all of which are being pursued simultaneously by the DRI's multidisciplinary team of investigators. Working together with a global network of like-minded scientists who are committed to a waste-no-time approach, the DRI is integrating the newest cell-based therapies with innovative engineering techniques to restore natural insulin production in those living with diabetes. These critical research pathways have been collectively referred to as the "Three S's": Site, Sustainability and Supply:  


Site: Traditionally, donor islets have been transplanted into the liver but this implant site poses some limitations, leading DRI scientists to investigate other possible options. Today, researchers are working to engineer a mini-endocrine pancreas in a site within the body that can house transplanted islets and potentially other "helper" technologies that protect the cells without the need for anti-rejection drugs.     


SustainabilityTo sustain the islets' long-term health and function, researchers are investigating several options. Some methods shield cells using protective barriers, others include adding oxygen or other beneficial agents within the transplant environment. Ultimately, sustainability is about interfering with the autoimmune attack that caused the onset of type 1 diabetes. 

SupplySupply: Currently, islet cells used for transplantation come from donor pancreases, but there are not enough organs to treat the millions of children and adults living with diabetes. DRI researchers are developing ways to create a reliable and plentiful supply of insulin-producing cells, or even regenerating a patient's own pancreatic cells.


A Unique, Biological Platform

BioHub DiagramAs shown in this diagram (click image to expand), a BioHub platform can be enhanced with different technologies to: protect the transplanted islets; promote their health and function; shield the cells with protective coatings, add critical oxygen, "helper" cells and local agents that can prevent an immune system attack; and/or minimize inflammation. The BioHub can house any type of insulin-producing cell that scientists may ultimately create as a means of addressing the limited cell supply, which will become increasingly important once the immune system issues are tackled.  



The BioHub strategy can best be grouped into three avenues of research that are simultaneously being pursued by the DRI: engineering a mini endocrine pancreas within the body, protecting the islets from immune system attack, and identifying an unlimited source of insulin-producing cells to treat the millions living with diabetes.

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