In the study, researchers took a type of white blood cell from the islet donor's spleen, called splenocytes, and treated them with a chemical that masked the cells' identity. They then injected these chemically treated cells into diabetic mice before and after the mice underwent islet cell transplantation. As a result, the immune system of the mice didn't try to reject the cells, because it didn't perceive them as foreign and dangerous.
When the same test was done without pre-treated cells, the immune system rejected the transplanted islets within 15 days.
In an upcoming study, Miller and Luo will work with mice that have autoimmune disease that destroys their islet cells, as occurs in type 1 diabetes. Researchers will use therapies that prevent the autoimmune system's response against its own beta cells (which are part of the islets) as well as prevent the recipient's immune responses against the transplanted islet cells.
"We have ways we can do both," Miller said. "Hopefully this next study will show we can take combined therapies for underlying autoimmune disease and transplanted islets. If we do that together, we hopefully can cure an animal who became diabetic from autoimmune disease." If successful, the next step would be testing the technique on human subjects.
Miller said this technique also has applications for treating other autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis.
|Contact: Marla Paul|