Researchers from the Okinawa Institute of Technology and Science Graduate University have developed a capsule from seaweed extract for preserving insulin producing pancreatic cells. The capsule offers a ray of hope to patients of Type 1 diabetes to lead a needle–free life.
People suffering from Type 1 diabetes are expected to take insulin injections everyday to control their sugar level. Researchers said that pancreatic islet transplantation is an effective treatment that can reduce daily doses or even eliminate dependence on external insulin. However, supply of pancreatic islet is low and deep freezing and preserving them remains a challenge as the water in them transforms into ice, which can damage membranes.
In order to avoid this, researchers have developed a novel freezing technique that employs a droplet of microfluidic device to encapsulate pancreatic islets in hydrogel made of alginate, a natural polymer extracted from seaweed. These capsules have considerable amount of non–freezable water which do not freeze due to a strong association between water molecules and hydrogel networks. The encapsulation ensures that the pancreatic islet is protected, thus, reducing the chances of rejection of transplanted cells by the recipient.