The following is an extract from the Daily Mail,
March 4th 1997
Once-a-year jab that could ease pain of diabetes
An annual injection of pink 'ceramic' beads may soon
with all the insulin they need - making daily insulin
injections a thing of the past.
The capsules, made of ceramic gel, contain live
insulin cells. Contactwith sugar molecules in the
patient's blood prompts these cells to produce
insulin. Since they remain active for months, the
beads ensure long-lasting protection against diabetes.
If trials go according to plan, the capsules could
make the daily insulin injections needed by the
majority of Britain's 1.4 million diabetics an
inconvenience of the past.
By introducing live insulin cells, the capsules are also
expected to be far more successful than current
treatment at preventing the long-term effects of
diabetes, such as kidney failure or blindness.
Given as an injection into a layer of fat beneath the
skin or into an area of the abdomen, the capsules
measure 0.6mm and contain hundreds oftiny pores.
These holes are large enough for the patients sugar
molecules to penetrate and trigger the cells to produce
They are also small enough to protect the cells from
attack by antibodies, viruses or bacteria. This defense
barrier enables the cells to stay alive and produce
insulin in the patient for up to 12 months.
Their effect wears off when the capsular barrier breaks
down and is eliminated from the body.
The insulin cells are then attacked by antibodies and
killed. At this point, a further injection can be given.
So far, in laboratory studies, the technique has been
shown to provide protection for six months, but
DR. Edward Pope, president of Matech, the
Californian company developing the technique,
believes that smaller capsules for humans will provide
protection for a year.
'So far, we have managed to keep insulin production
going for six months, but if we give smaller capsules
in higher quantities we should be able to keep it going
for twice as long,' he says.
Diabetes - caused by an inability to produce the
sugar-regulating hormone insulin - is irreversible and
can occur at any point in live. Left untreated, the
condition leads to high blood sugar levels. This, in turn,
can cause severe dehydration, weight loss, blindness,
kidney failure and in the worst instance, coma.
To compensate for a lack of insulin, diabetics need to
take up to four injections of the hormone every day.
The treatment is uncomfortable and there is a risk of
Diabetics must also undertake regular blood-sugar tests
to ensure their levels of insulin to sugar are correct.
But because insulin is delivered at set doses, healthy
levels of sugar to insulin cannot always be maintained.
This means that despite treatment, all diabetics risk
developing long-term symptoms of the disease,including
blindness, circulatory problems and heart disease.
DR Pope maintains that the capsules would cut out
the long term risks of diabetes altogether. 'Since the
capsules introduce live insulin-producing cells, insulin
levels are increased or decreased according to the body's
needs at any point in time' he says.
'A patient's blood sugar levels are regulated accurately
and constantly, as they are in healthy individuals.
'This is the great driving force behind the project. There
would be no injections or a need to check blood-sugar
levels, and the technique would ensure diabetics suffer
no long-term disability.'
Deidre Whitley, of the British Diabetic Association,
welcomes the development. 'While most diabetics can
lead healthy active lives, in children, particularly, there
is the problem of getting them to inject themselves and
the worry that they will forget to do it,' she says.
Missing injections can cause complications such as
blurred vision, fatigue and dehydration. If diabetics,
especially children, could be given a treatment that
avoids injection and the risk of forgetting them, it would
be a major breakthrough.
Matech hopes to use the same technique to treat other
conditions that require frequent doses of medication,
such as Parkinson's disease.
'The capsules could hold dopamine cells needed by
sufferers of Parkinson's disease,' says DR Pope.'
They could also deliver liver cells for people with liver
failure or osteoblasts which could stimulate bone growth
in people who have lost bone due to oseoporosis, bone
cancer or a bad accident.
'These patients need to take medicine regularly,
'he says. 'But with the beads, that is done automatically.
The patient doesn't have to think or worry about it at all.
Insulin cell transplant a success
WASHINGTON - Holding out new hope for diabetics,
scientists for the first time have successfully transplanted
insulin-producing cells into the pancreas of a mouse.
"We want to emphasize we're still in the early stages,"
and something that works in a rodent may not be
successful in humans, lead researcher Dr. Henry Lau,
a transplant surgeon at Johns Hopkins Medical School,
said."But what we have reported is a new way of
The findings are reported in today's edition of Science.
Past transplant attempts failed when mice rejected a graft
of an insulin-producing islet cell. Diabetics are unable to
produce insulin, which absorbs sugars and keeps down
glucose levels in the body.
In the new procedure, researchers transplanted an islet
cell along with an altered muscle cell.
The muscle cells acted like "bodyguards" to protect the
islets, blocking the death signals the body's immune
system tries to send to the foreign cell.
The implanted cells produced insulin for an average of
80 days, long in the life of a mouse, said Chris Stoeckert,
Lau's collaborator at Children's Hospital.
It isn't known how long a parallel procedure might work