Comment »Posted on Friday 17 April 2009 at 12:53 pm by Emma Stokes
In Biology, Health & Medicine

Scientists have taken pancreatic cells, coated them with Teflon (yeah that stuff that stops your food from sticking to the frying pan) and transplanted them into mice… successfully! Whilst this might seem a bit strange at first, Teflon has been used for many years in medicine for grafts, sutures and surgical implants.

The reasoning behind this is to develop a new therapy for the treatment of type-1 diabetes. Type-1 diabetes occurs due to an autoimmune response that kills cells in the pancreas, leaving the body unable to regulate glucose levels in the blood.

One of the most promising therapies is to transplant pancreas cells into the patients. However, as with all transplants, to ensure the immune system does not destroy the new tissue, the patient must take immunosuppressive drugs. These drugs must be taken long term, and leave the patient susceptible to picking up infections. In a way, this is less desirable than the problem in the first place, and still results in the need for long term medication.

The findings of a team based in California are therefore very exciting. They report in the journal Transplant that they have developed a way of transplanting cells without them being destroyed by the patient’s immune system by coating the cells in a protective layer of polytetrafluoroethylene (Teflon).

The team took precursor cells (to pancreatic cells), coated them, and implanted them into mice. They found these cells weren’t destroyed by the immune system and grew into cells that were responsive to glucose levels.  The chief researcher Pamela Itkin-Ansari stated in the press release that “the results exceeded our expectations,” finding “no evidence of an active immune response, suggesting that the cells in the device were invisible to the immune system.”

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