The risk of developing Type I diabetes, which can lead to serious health complications such as kidney failure and blindness, can be predicted with 90 percent accuracy. But therapeutic intervention for people identified as high risk has been limited because many systemic treatments are barred from clinical use due to the severe side effects they produce when used at the high doses required to achieve a therapeutic response.
"The consequences of Type I diabetes are felt in both the people who live with the disease and in the terrible strain that treatment costs put on the economy," said Ingber. "In keeping with our vision at the Wyss Institute, we hope that the programmable nanotherapy we have developed here will have a major positive impact on people's lives in the future."
Using nanoparticles that can be programmed to deliver drug or stem cell therapies to specific disease sites is an excellent alternative to systemic treatments because improved responses can be obtained with significantly lower therapeutic doses and hence, fewer side effects. To date, such nanotherapeutics have been developed primarily to treat cancer, since they can home in on the tumor via its leaky blood vessels. The challenge has been to develop ways to selectively deliver drugs to treat other diseases in which the tissues of interest are not as easily targeted. The research team addressed this problem by using a unique homing peptide molecule to create "smart" nanoparticles that can seek out and bind to the capillary blood vessels in the islets of the pancreas that feed the insulin-producing cells most at risk during disease onset.
|Contact: Twig Mowatt|
Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard