Islet Cell Macrobead Research

The diabetes research program developed because the largest cause of end-stage kidney disease is diabetes. The aim of the program is to provide a more effective treatment for diabetes which could result in less kidney disease as well as other diabetes-related complications such as heart and blood vessel disease, nerve damage and vision impairment. Rogosin’s diabetes research in Xenia is centered on replacing the insulin producing pancreatic islet cells, that have been lost in type 1 diabetes patients, with fully functional islets isolated from pigs. Rogosin partnered with Bob Evans Farms where pig islet cells are isolated and placed in small beads (about the size of a pea) made from agarose, a seaweed product. These beads are termed porcine islet macrobeads and when implanted in animals with diabetes, the encapsulated islets produce insulin and normalize glucose metabolism in the absence of any replacement insulin injections. In the laboratory, the islets survive for more than a year after encapsulation in macrobeads, providing plenty of time to ensure a high level of function and, critically, safety prior to implantation. The islet macrobeads have recently been tested in diabetic monkeys and have shown long-term function and safety (>3 years). Importantly, the diabetic animals treated to date have not required the addition of medications, for example to suppress the immune system, and this is thought to add considerable safety to islet macrobead therapy.

It is projected that the first human patients to receive porcine islet macrobeads will be those with severe, unstable diabetes. The macrobeads will be placed into the abdominal cavity during an outpatient minimally invasive laparoscopic procedure where they will distribute and remain free-floating throughout the abdomen. In this way, the macrobeads sense the glucose level of the recipient and release insulin and other therapeutic proteins. The Institute is currently working with the Food and Drug Administration with the goal to begin treating people with type 1 diabetes as part of a clinical research study.