A new study by researchers from the University of Missouri, Georgia Tech, and Harvard University has demonstrated the successful use of a Type 1 diabetes treatment in an animal model, according to Science Daily.

The study was published in Science Advances, a journal published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

The researchers’ approach involves transplanting pancreatic cells (insulin-producing pancreas cells) from a donor to a recipient, without the need for immunosuppressive drugs.

The immune system of people with type 1 diabetes can malfunction, causing it to attack itself, according to Dr. Haval Shirwan, one of the study’s lead authors.

He said, “The immune system is a tightly controlled defense mechanism that ensures the well-being of individuals in an environment full of infections. Type 1 diabetes develops when the immune system misidentifies the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas as infections and destroys them.”

“Normally, once a perceived danger or threat is eliminated, the immune system’s command-and-control mechanism kicks in to eliminate any rogue cells,” he added. “However, if this mechanism fails, diseases such as type 1 diabetes can manifest.”

For the 20 years, Dr. Shirwan and Dr. Esma Yolcu, the study’s first author, have targeted apoptosis, a mechanism that destroys “rogue” immune cells from causing diabetes or rejection of transplanted pancreatic islets by attaching a molecule called FasL to the surface of the islets, per Science Daily.

Dr. Yolcu said, “A type of apoptosis occurs when a molecule called FasL interacts with another molecule called Fas on rogue immune cells, and it causes them to die. Therefore, our team pioneered a technology that enabled the production of a novel form of FasL and its presentation on transplanted pancreatic islet cells or microgels to prevent being rejected by rogue cells.”

“Following insulin-producing pancreatic islet cell transplantation, rogue cells mobilize to the graft for destruction but are eliminated by FasL engaging Fas on their surface,” she added.

Dr. Shirwan said, “The major problem with immunosuppressive drugs is that they are not specific, so they can have a lot of adverse effects, such as high instances of developing cancer. So, using our technology, we found a way that we can modulate or train the immune system to accept, and not reject, these transplanted cells.”

Dr. Yolcu explained, “I think by being at the right institution with access to a great facility like the Roy Blunt NextGen Precision Health building, will allow us to build on our existing findings and take the necessary steps to further our research, and make the necessary improvements, faster.” The article was published in Science Daily.