Researchers have created a new technique to treat Type 1 diabetes: implanting a device inside a pocket under the skin that can secrete insulin while avoiding the immunosuppression that typically stymies management of the disease. The approach would offer an easier, long-term, and less-invasive alternative to insulin injections or traditional transplants that require immunosuppression.

The installation is a two-step process. First, a series of nylon catheters are inserted under the skin, where they remain for four to six weeks — long enough for blood vessels to form around the catheters. When the catheters are removed, the islet devices, which are approximately 10 cm long, are inserted into the pocket of space the catheters created, and the surrounding vascular system remains intact.

The device is designed in a way to maximize the mass exchange of nutrients and oxygen, but researchers say they may need to provide additional means to support the cells for a long-term function in large-animal models and eventually patients. (Image credit: Cornell University)

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