Hope for diabetics: an artificial pancreas from IIT-B

 Reporting progress: Prof. Jayesh Bellare working in his lab at IIT Bombay.

Reporting progress: Prof. Jayesh Bellare working in his lab at IIT Bombay.

Mumbai: Following successful clinical tests on mice and pigs, the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay’s Chemical Engineering department has announced progress in the development of a bio-artificial pancreas that can be implanted in diabetics to help manage the disease. Though it is still years from being used on humans, its continued development holds hope for diabetics.

Research on the bio-artificial pancreas, which began 10 years ago in 2008, is led by Prof. Jayesh Bellare from the Chemical Engineering department with the help of several PhD students over the years. The device is made using polymer based hollow fibre tubes, which usually find use in surgical implants. Hollow fibre tubes don’t harm surrounding tissue, and can grow and sustain cells producing the hormone insulin.

Prof. Bellare, who has taught at IIT-B for 27 years, said, “A hollow fibre membrane is a narrow tube, about 1 mm in diameter, with pores in its walls. When liquid is passed through the tube (also called lumen), the wall selectively retains certain constituents and allows others to pass through. This selective separation is used in many processes, including dialysis for patients with renal disorder.”

The hollow fibre tubes also helped the IIT-B team overcome the obstacle posed by the lack of biocompatibility, as the human body naturally treats the bio-artificial pancreas as a foreign object. Rejection by the body considerably degrades its functioning.

The team introduced the tubes into peritoneal fluid in the abdomen, which protects internal organs. “By performing a keyhole surgery, a small cut can be made in the umbilical cord and the bio-artificial pancreas can be implanted in the abdominal muscles. It can even be injected directly into the abdominal muscles.”

Lab tests

In 2016, researchers implanted the artificial pancreas in diabetic mice for 30 days, and found that the implants didn’t give rise to abnormalities in internal organs. Also, the mice’s immune system didn’t attack the implants, and blood vessels were also seen growing. Researchers plan to continue studying how the new device behaves in large animals and then in humans. “We are working with clinicians to develop the model,” Profeesor Bellare, who says the device was inspired by his success in improving dialysis techniques, added.

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Printable version | Jun 29, 2022 5:52:30 pm |