'Tea bag' technology may regulate insulin in Type 1 diabetes patients

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The American Diabetes Association estimates nearly 1.25 million Americans have Type 1 diabetes.

Scientists at the University of Arizona are developing an implantable device that senses low glucose and delivers insulin. It's what researchers are calling "tea bag" technology.

Rebecca Ruiz Hudman uses a glucose monitor, insulin pump and insulin sensor to control her Type 1 diabetes.

"It might make you sleepy if you're too high or it might make you shaky and jittery and obviously go into a coma if you're too low. So, it's this constant battle," Hudman said.

Even with state-of-the-art technology, her glucose levels go too high and too low.

In Type 1diabetes, the immune system destroys insulin-producing islet cells, so the pancreas can't regulate blood sugar.

Klearchos Papas is developing a tea bag device to take over.

"The tea bag actually separates the immune system from the cells and protects them without the need of special drugs that immunosuppress your system," Papas said.

That's especially important for children. Scientists get islet cells from a cadaver pancreas, isolate and evaluate them, then put them in a Teflon-coated teabag.

"It allows glucose to go in so these cells can sense it as they do in the pancreas, and it allows insulin to come out, so it can actually be effective in the tissues that need it," Papas said.

It worked in small animals and is now being tested in large ones. Papas says the tea bag is small because he figured out how to oxygenate it through a tube and needs fewer cells.

Papas hopes to use lab-grown islet cells from stem cells to make the procedure more cost effective and efficient for widespread use. He's also trying to see whether several small tea bags or one larger tea bag work best.

Papas says grants from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the National Institutes of Health should push the project into clinical trials in two or three years.

MEDICAL BREAKTHROUGHS
RESEARCH SUMMARY
TOPIC: TEA BAG INSULIN
REPORT: MB #4611

BACKGROUND: Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition that causes the pancreas to produce very little to no insulin. Type 1 used to be known as juvenile or insulin-dependent diabetes. The disease is usually detected or appears during patients' adolescent years, but in some cases can develop in adults. Currently there is still no cure for Type 1 diabetes. Treatment for Type 1 manages blood sugar levels with insulin, diet and lifestyle changes to prevent complications. (Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/type-1-diabetes/symptoms-causes/syc-20353011)

INSULIN AND GLUCOSE ROLES: In type 1 diabetes, there's no insulin to let glucose into the cells, so sugar builds up in your bloodstream. Insulin is produced by the pancreas, which sits behind and below the stomach. Once many islet cells are destroyed, that is when the pancreas will begin to produce low amounts of insulin. Insulin is secreted into the bloodstream by the pancreas, it then circulates allowing sugar to enter into cells. Insulin lowers the amount of sugar in your bloodstream, so as blood sugar levels drop so does secretion of insulin. Glucose is the number one source of energy for cells that make up muscles and other tissues and comes from food and the liver. Sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream, where it enters cells with the help of insulin. When glucose levels are low the liver, which stores glucose and glycogen, breaks down the glycogen into glucose to keep glucose levels normal. This can cause life-threatening complications. (Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/type-1-diabetes/symptoms-causes/syc-20353011)

TEABAG INSULIN: Klearchos Papas, PhD, Dir, Institute for Cellular Transplantation at the University of Arizona has developed a new device that will try and mimic a normal pancreas and help with producing insulin. "It has several features, but two of the key features is that it blocks cells from the immune system to get through it so they don't reorganize them and they don't attack the newly implanted cells," said Papas. He also went on to say, "It allows glucose to go in so that these cells can sense it as they do in the pancreas and then it allows insulin to come out so that it can actually be effective in the tissues that need it." The device worked in small animals and is now being tested on larger ones. (Source: Klearchos Papas, PhD)