Researchers develop implant for type 1 diabetes management

A Cornell University led research team has developed an implantable device that delivers islet cells for the management of type 1 diabetes, according to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Injections of insulin make up the routine in the over one million Americans with type 1 diabetes because of the destruction of insulin-producing pancreatic cell clusters (islets) by the body’s immune system. In response, researchers have developed an implant containing thousand of islet cells covered in a hydrogel coating for improved management of the patient’s diabetes.

Led by assistant professor Minglin Ma from Cornell's department of biological and environmental engineering, the team of researchers based the construction of the implant on the spider’s web. Mimicking the way water stands on a spider’s web, the calcium-releasing polymer thread implant is coated in a hydrogel layer for a uniform fit

"You don't have any gaps between capsules," Ma said. "With a spider's silk, you still have gaps between the water beads. In our case, gaps would be bad in terms of scar tissue and the like."

Through minimally invasive laparoscopic procedures, the almost six-foot hydrogel-coated thread of islet cells is put into the patients peritoneal cavity. The implant can be easily removed and exchanged when the cells have run their course thanks to the uniform hydrogel coating.