Teabag device could help children control type 1 diabetes

An implantable “teabag” device could be used to treat children with type 1 diabetes in the future, researchers have said.

A team from the Department of Surgery and Medical Imaging at the University of Arizona College of Medicine are among the many scientists worldwide exploring the exciting field of islet cell encapsulation.

Islet cell encapsulation is a form of transplantation. A significant challenge with transplantation is that the body’s immune system is programmed to attack islet cells, so immunosuppressant drugs are required, which can cause side effects. In children, the side effects of these drugs can be dangerous, so the technique is not recommended.

Islet cell encapsulation involves implanting a small pouch that contains islet cells. The islet cells can respond to blood glucose levels, releasing insulin when needed. The pouch helps keep the immune system away from attacking the islet cells inside.

“It’s like a tea bag,” explained lead author Dr Klearchos Papas. “The tea leaves stay inside but tea, or insulin, comes out. And the tea bag keeps out the immune cells that would normally attack the islets.”

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