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February 21, 2006

'Seaweed Bubbles' May Help Fight Diabetes

Topics: Medicine

Although Genes and an European epidemic long ago may explain why diabetes - linked to an affluent diet - most drastically affects indigenous peoples, and why rates are soaring worldwide, such knowledge hasn't affected the growing diabetes epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2005, an estimated 20.8 million persons in the United States, or about 7 percent of the population, had diabetes, although the illness had been diagnosed in only about two thirds of these people.

Now there may be hope on the horizon for Type 1 diabetes patients:

islet230805.jpg(...) Encapsulating insulin producing cells in tiny seaweed bubbles and injecting them into people with type 1 diabetes could one day remove the need for daily insulin injections, an Australian researcher says [Image(NIH) Researchers have put insulin producing cells like this into tiny capsules as a treatment for type 1 diabetes].

(...) Professor Bernie Tuch of the University of New South Wales launched a trial of the technology this week, using capsules made from the seaweed derivative alginate and measuring just 300 micrometres across.

(...) Tuch says if the trial works, it will mean that insulin producing cells, or islets, can be transplanted, effectively reversing type 1 diabetes, without the need for immunosuppressive drugs.

(...) This is because the capsules protect the transplanted cells from being sought out and destroyed by the body's immune system.

(...) The capsules also contain tiny holes that let the insulin flow out while allowing oxygen and nutrients in.

(...) "The concept of the seaweed is that it forms a coating around the islets ... with holes that are small enough to prevent immune cells entering," Tuch says.

Problems remain, but there are indications of promise ...

Posted by Richard at February 21, 2006 2:47 PM

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