Organs-on-chip could give diabetes patients new hope

Categorie(s) : Events, Innovation & Society, MINATEC, News, Research

Published : 6 June 2022

Researchers from Irig and CEA-Leti successfully maintained pancreatic cells called islets of Langerhans in culture on a microfluidic chip for a month and were able to measure individual islets’ insulin production. This breakthrough could improve the efficacy of islet transplants, a treatment given to some diabetes patients.
Islets of Langherans are sphere-shaped pancreatic cells between 200 microns and 300 microns in diameter. Although they account for just 3% of the pancreas, they perform the vital function of releasing either insulin or glucagon to keep blood glucose levels in check.
Diabetes occurs when these cells no longer function optimally or cease to function altogether.
France’s medical regulator approved islet transplants in 2021 for patients with severe diabetes.

Selecting the most promising islets before the transplant
The joint Irig-CEA-Leti research team built a special microfluidic chip and “grew” the islets of Langherans in it, keeping the cells alive for a month.
This alone represents a significant challenge. However, the researchers went even further, instrumenting the chip and measuring each islet’s insulin production in response to varying glucose levels.
The system works, which means that it could be used to identify the best performing islets and study the molecular mechanisms at work inside them.
Currently, as there is no way to predict islet behavior, cells are taken from four or five donors per patient to increase the chances of a successful transplant. This advance could help improve the efficacy of islet transplants by providing insights into which islets will work best.


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