London: Researchers have for the first time used nanoparticles that imitate naturally dying cells to prevent diabetes in mice, an advance that may pave the way for a human vaccine to protect against the disease. Previously, researchers at The Germans Trias i Pujol Research Institute in Spain modified an individual’s immune cells, known as dendritic cells, to avoid the destruction of the insulin-producing pancreatic cells (beta cells) in the body and prevent type 1 diabetes. This requires the extraction of the subjects’ dendritic cells for their subsequent manipulation and re-injection. The process is complex and costly.
In a new study with mice, the researchers said they have achieved the same effect with a much simpler process. The researchers, in collaboration with the Catalan Institute for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology located on the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (UAB) Campus, created nanoparticles called liposomes in the laboratory which imitate cells in the process of natural death.
Liposomes are droplets with an external fat membrane, similar to cell membranes. They can be made using a very specialised process, but one that is easy and safe and also easy to scale up. In mice, liposomes arrested the destruction of the beta cells after being introduced into the body to prevent the development of diabetes.
This technique could be a much better candidate for a human vaccine, researchers said. “After showing that liposomes prevent the onset of type 1 diabetes in mice, the next steps are to test it in human cells in vitro, to start clinical trials on human candidates for preventive vaccination and to cure the disease by combining the vaccine with regenerative therapies,” researchers said.