A seaweed ingredient, alginate, could stop people’s bodies rejecting insulin-producing cells taken from pigs in xenotransplants.
Researchers say the jelly-like substance envelopes the pig cells so the patient’s immune system does not destroy them once they are injected.
This allows animal cells to carry on producing insulin, potentially banishing the need for people with diabetes to inject themselves with insulin.
Xenotransplants are a potential alternative to islet cells transplanted from the pancreas of humans to people with diabetes.
The procedure uses organs or cells from animals, such as pigs, which are transplanted into people.
Jo Brodie, Science Information Officer at Diabetes UK, says: “This research may have huge potential. A major limiting factor in the use of a whole pancreas or islet cell transplant is the lack of available donor organs. In addition, transplants of any kind mean a lifetime of anti-rejection drugs.
“But there are seriously ethical issues around xenotransplants and they are not currently undertaken in the UK.”
The research was conducted by San Diego-based company MicroIslet.