Researchers from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Guwahati have successfully created an implantable bioartificial pancreas model grown within 3D silk scaffold.
The bioartificial pancreas encapsulates insulin-producing beta cells, capable of naturally producing insulin in sustained manner. If successful in animal and human trials, it can be used for treating people with Type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes arises when the body’s immune system kills the insulin-producing beta cells.
The 3D silk scaffold was found to be biocompatible (not toxic to living tissue) as it did not trigger any immune reaction or cause any adverse reaction after implanted. It was made porous by using salt grains of specific size to dissolve the silk proteins. These pores were 400-500 micrometre in size which allowed glucose and oxygen to enter scaffold and insulin released by beta cells with greater survival rate to enter bloodstream.
The scaffold containing beta cells was coated with a semi-permeable membrane barrier. The membrane allowed insulin produced to be released into blood stream and does not allow immune cells to cross membrane and kill the islet cells.
To ensure that the implant is not rejected by the body’s immune system, drugs that suppress the immune system were embedded in the scaffold. Studies carried in lab showed that beta cells in scaffold were able to produce adequate amount of insulin in response to different glucose levels within a few seconds.