People with type I diabetes are unable to make the insulin needed to regulate their blood sugar, which is why they must take exogenous insulin every day. Another treatment option is pancreatic islet transplantation, wherein healthy donor islets (tiny structures which contain insulin-producing beta cells) are transplanted into the diabetic patient. As with any transplant, however, there is the problem of the recipient’s immune system rejecting the foreign cells. Currently, islet transplant recipients must take powerful immuno-suppressing drugs for the rest of their lives in order to prevent rejection.
A new paper from researchers at the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience describes the development of a novel microgel that can deliver an immune-suppressing protein, PD-L1, to the transplant microenvironment in mice. PD-L1, which stands for programmed cell death-ligand 1, is a transmembrane protein which works by reprogramming immune cells and is also utilized by cancer cells to protect themselves from the immune system. Further developments could potentially eliminate the need for global immuno-suppressants in patients who receive the novel therapy. You can read more about the new research here.