Development of a Bioartificial Pancreas and Use of Hydrogels for the Treatment of Diabetic Complications
Islet cell encapsulation. Successful development of a bioartificial pancreas through islet cell encapsulation and transplantation offers a potential cure for Type 1 diabetes. The development of effective encapsulation techniques can expand islet supply and obviate the need for immunosuppresive drugs to prevent immune rejection of transplanted islets. Research in the development of a bioartificial pancreas involves the development and assessment of new biomaterials for biocompatibility in cell encapsulation, development of biosensors and imaging techniques for rapid determination of encapsulated islet function.
The use of synthetic hydrogels of poly(ethylene glycol) diacrylate have shown promise for islet cell encapsulation. Using the previously developed technique of interfacial photopolymerization enables the encapsulation of individual islet clusters. Interfacial photopolymerization, studied in Professor Papavasiliou's lab, involves the localization of a photoinitiator onto the islet surface followed by the addition of the prepolymer solution which upon exposure to light results in the formation of a hydrogel coat which grows from the surface outward. By experimental variation in the polymerization conditions, the diffusive properties of the encapsulating hydrogel (e.g. crosslink density and membrane thickness) and thus islet cell viability and functionality can be precisely controlled. Studies are also being focused on immobilizing peptides (glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) in the hydrogel which are known to increase insulin secretion and determine islet cell function in vitro.