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Teflon-coated cells could help treat Type 1 diabetes

Scientists have invented a tiny implant covered in Teflon coating that contains transplanted insulin-producing cells.

Teflon, the chemical used to coat non-stick pans, has been used in medicine for more than 30 years, as it is compatible with human tissue and does not cause the immune system to attack itself when implanted in the body.

Researchers from the University of California San Diego and the Burnham Institute for Medical Research, also in California, took stem cells from human pancreases and encased them inside a Teflon-coated “pouch”. The pouch is made of a fine membrane that allows insulin to escape, but does not allow attacking T-cells, that kill insulin-producing cells, to get in.

As a result, the transplanted cells are able to carry on producing insulin – potentially reducing the need for people with Type 1 diabetes to give themselves injections, according to the researchers.

The scientists tested the experimental treatment on mice and said the results exceeded their expectations. During laboratory tests, they found that transplanted cells were able to survive the body’s defence system, and produce enough insulin to enable the body to effectively use glucose.

Dr Iain Frame, Director of Research at Diabetes UK, said: “This area of research is certainly very interesting, although trying to find ways to hide transplanted islet cells from the immune response is not particularly new.

“We have to bear in mind that these are very early experiments in mice. Transferring this technology to provide a real and lasting treatment for diabetes in humans will not be straightforward and may well take a long time”.

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