People with type 1 diabetes are bound to face daily problems, such as finger-scratching and insulin injections. An Israeli biomedical company now says such tasks will soon be eliminated because of the successful development of prototype implants. The titanium body device developed by Beta-O2 Technologies is called the bio-artificial pancreas, or Air.
It is about 2.5 x 2.5 inches (64 mm) long and contains a large capsule containing live pancreatic cells, also known as islets, and an oxygen tank. These cells can be obtained from human donors, pig’s pancreas, or in the laboratory from the patient’s own stem cells. The external port on the oxygen tank allows the patient to replenish the oxygen weekly.
Once implanted under the skin, the aerium can continuously monitor blood sugar levels and, if necessary, use oxygen-supplying pancreatic cells to produce and deliver insulin. According to the company, oxygen supply is key to the success of the device – other experimental artificial pancreas with islets rely on limited oxygen in the patient’s blood and are said to be difficult to maintain the cell’s vitality.
In addition, in order to keep the new implants from being rejected by the human body, immunosuppressive therapy is not required. That is, the company’s statement makes it easy to delete it as needed.
The device has been tested on four patients in Sweden who did not have any side effects after 10 months of implantation – and the cells survived throughout the process. The company is now conducting a second-generation trial of diabetic rats, which have so far maintained normal glucose levels. Larger human trials are expected to begin later this year.