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Insulin-releasing implants for diabetes patients are under trial

Scientists at the University of Alberta have launched a pilot study to test how small implants filled with stem cells can help regulate insulin levels in patients with type 1 diabetes.

In type 1 diabetes, a person’s immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. As a result, patients with diabetes must regularly test their blood sugar levels and manually inject insulin to balance it.

The new approach, if proved effective, could replace injections and make disease management much easier – the result diabetes patients are looking forward. During the treatment, small plastic pouches filled with millions of insulin-producing cells are implanted under a patient's skin. Blood vessels then grow around the implants, allowing the stem cells inside the pouch to release the necessary dose of insulin based on the patient’s blood sugar levels.

The method has already proved effective on lab mice. The current tiral is to test whether the method is safe and effective for humans.

The current study involves 17 patients suffering type 1 diabetes and is the world’s first trial of its type. Although the study has recently begun, the doctors are very excited with the early indicators. The trial shows implants to be safe for the patients and to work just as the researchers expected them to. However, early results from the study will be available within the next two years.