Congratulations to Cherie Stabler, Ph.D., professor in the J. Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering, for receiving a $1.7 million RO1 grant from the NIH National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases for her project, “Engineering Immunomodulatory Nanoscale Coatings for Protecting Islet Transplants.”
Type 1 diabetes is initiated by the loss of the insulin-producing beta cells within the pancreas. While insulin injections supplement this loss, disease management and complications associated with non-physiological glucose regulation is high. Cell-based treatment options for diabetics has shown to increase quality of life and reduce disease-associated complications; however, the requirement of the patient to take lifelong anti-rejection drugs to prevent immune destruction of these cells hinders widespread use.
Stabler’s recently funded grant seeks to improve these cellular implants by encapsulating the cells within protective immunomodulatory biomaterials. Immunomodulatory biomaterials are materials that direct immune cells toward desired behaviors. In this approach, Dr Stabler’s materials would instruct the immune cells to accept the foreign cells. If successful, this approach would dramatically reduce the drug burden on the patient by creating a local implant environment that does not reject the implant. Lessons learned from this approach could be translated to other cell-based therapies to improve their duration and minimize the immunosuppressive drug load to the patient.