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How Porcine Islet Cells Could Help Treat Diabetes

porcine islet cells

Research swine are playing a substantial role in uncovering new methods of treating diabetes.

Porcine islet cells are an integral part of the microislet cell encapsulation method because there is an unlimited source of porcine pancreas cells as compared to human donor pancreatic islets.

In 2008, Scientific American reported on efforts by the San Diego biotech firm MicroIslet Inc. to develop this type of islet therapy, in which insulin-producing porcine islets are implanted in a patient’s peritoneum.

“Human-to-human islet transplants can work but there’s not a commercial opportunity there because of limited access to pancreases [someone has to die],” MicroIslet board member Keith Hoffman said.

And this limited access means “millions of people” have no access to the transplants that could control their diabetes, Hoffman added.

MicroIslet’s cell encapsulation method was developed at Duke University and involves the use of an alginate shell – a thickening agent derived from seaweed – to allow porcine islet cells to produce insulin without being destroyed by human antibodies. Other nutrients, like oxygen and glucose, can diffuse freely through the alginate.

While xenotransplantation can provide help for millions of diabetics, MicroIslet warns that it won’t replace insulin injections across the board. Not every diabetic patient would be a candidate for the transplant procedure, and others might still need insulin injections, if not as often.

The MicroIslet/Duke porcine islet cell project is yet another example of how porcine models can help researchers make breakthroughs that improve human health.

We’ve written before about the use of research swine in everything from improved burn healing to helping liver transplant patients.

Animal Biotech is proud of the role it has played in this sort of work. In addition to providing live porcine models and porcine cadavers, we offer researchers our insights into most aspects of testing, housing and using live animals.

We can also customize different types of post-mortem tissues and tissue blocks or suggest the type of tissues that can meet your research needs.

Contact us today to learn how we can assist you in your next project.