Individuals living with Type 1 diabetes must carefully follow prescribed insulin regimens every day, receiving injections of the hormone via syringe, insulin pump or some other device. And without viable long-term treatments, this course of treatment is a lifelong sentence. Pancreatic islets control insulin production when blood sugar levels change, and in Type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system attacks and destroys such insulin-producing cells. Islet transplantation has emerged over the past few decades as a potential cure for Type 1 diabetes. With healthy transplanted islets, Type 1 diabetes patients may no longer need insulin injections, but transplantation efforts have faced setbacks as the immune system continues to eventually reject new islets. Current immunosuppressive drugs offer inadequate protection for transplanted cells and tissues and are plagued by undesirable side effects. Now a team of researchers at Northwestern University has discovered a technique to help make immunomodulation more effective. The method uses nanocarriers to re-engineer the commonly used immunosuppressant rapamycin. Using these rapamycin-loaded nanocarriers, the researchers generated a new form of immunosuppression capable of targeting specific cells related to the transplant without suppressing wider immune responses.
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