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The Greiner Lab is Helping to Improve a Therapeutic Macroencapsulation Device to Advance the Development of Beta Cell Replacement Technology

Date Posted: Friday, October 22, 2021
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Dale L. Greiner, PhD, co-director, UMass Diabetes Center of Excellence 

A collaborative research team including UMass Diabetes Center of Excellence co-director Dale Greiner, PhD, developed and tested an enhanced microencapsulation device (MED) intended to protect transplanted human islets into people with Type 1 diabetes.  This project showed proof-of-concept by providing a glucose-sensing, insulin-secreting encapsulation device that holds more cells and demonstrated greater cell survival than previous MEDs.  It also provided enhanced nutrient transport that ultimately led to a rapid reduction of hyperglycemia. 

“Our unique models of diabetes allow devices such as this to be studied in vivo without putting people at risk,” said Dr. Greiner, the Dr. Eileen L. Berman and Stanley I. Berman Foundation Chair in Biomedical Research and Professor of Molecular Medicine at UMass Chan Medical School. “We currently have various projects testing potential Type 1 diabetes therapies in our labs.”

The study was funded by the JDRF Research Encapsulation Consortium, with leading experts investigating solutions to overcome the limitations of standard MEDs. Initial results are published in PNAS, the official journal of the National Academy of Sciences - A therapeutic convection-enhanced macroencapsulation device for enhancing beta cell viability and insulin secretion.”

The project was led by Jeffrey Karp, PhD at MIT, whose team developed the improved MED model.  The Greiner Lab at UMass Chan Medical School was instrumental in providing our novel models of diabetes to test the encapsulation of stem cell-derived pancreatic beta cells that were created at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute by Doug Melton, PhD. 

The UMass Diabetes Center of Excellence is currently collaborating with the Melton Lab and others on a separate project to genetically modify stem cell-derived beta cells so that they won’t be recognized by the immune system. 

While this encapsulation project was a limited study, future steps were outlined to further optimize the device.  Ultimately, the goal is to create an MED that will protect beta cells from an autoimmune attack.  It would replace the need for insulin pumps by acting as a biological glucose sensor that naturally monitors blood sugar levels, produces insulin indefinitely, and secretes it as needed.

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