Dr. Stabler and her team seek to develop a device that prevents rejection by the host and helps support the cellular transplant via a multi-pronged approach.

UF Engineer Improving Transplant Environment For Patients With Diabetes

In Carousel, J Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering, News, Research & Innovation

Dr. Cherie Stabler, professor at the J. Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering, has received a $1.05M grant from JDRF (a leading global organization funding type 1 diabetes (T1D) research). Working with a collaborator, Dr Andres Garcia at Georgia Tech, she is pursuing research on “Engineered Bioactive Hydrogel Macro-devices for Islet Transplantation.” The study aims to further the advancement of an immuno-protective implant, using bioactive biomaterials to achieve and maintain ideal glucose levels for diabetic patients.

Clinical islet transplantation (CIT), the infusion of islet cells into a patient’s liver, has shown significant promise in the long-term treatment of Type I diabetes by providing a cell-based means to mimic the normal physiological response to glucose. While promising, this procedure is limited by the impaired function and loss of islets following implantation. This loss is attributed to strong immune responses to the transplant, where the surgical procedure initiates inflammation and the presence of foreign cells activates immune cell attack.

In this new study, Dr. Stabler and her team seek to develop a device that prevents rejection by the host and helps support the cellular transplant via a multi-pronged approach.

  • First, islets are encapsulated into a single device using a bio-stable polymer. This type of “immuno-camouflage” prevents immune cells from directly attacking and destroying the foreign cells.
  • Next, because encapsulation decreases oxygen availability, a novel oxygen generating material is placed within the device.
  • Finally, to support the implant long-term, a pro-vascularization coating is placed on the device to promote blood vessel growth at the interface of the implant. This resulting construct is expected to provide a means for the transplantation of islets within a single, confined, encapsulation device that regulates blood glucose levels while eliminating the need for anti-rejection drugs post-transplant.

Dr. Stabler is a professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at UF’s Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering. She is also an Affiliate Member of the Diabetes Institute at the College of Medicine at the University of Florida. She is an American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) Fellow and the recipient of the 2008 NIH NIDDK Type 1 Diabetes Pathfinder New Innovator (DP2) Award.

Dr. Stabler’s research centers on the engineering of cell-based tissues for the treatment of Type 1 diabetes, specifically the development of novel biomaterials for cellular encapsulation; three-dimensional scaffolds; and in situ oxygen and drug release. Through the fabrication of novel biomaterials capable of actively interfacing with the host, she seeks to modulate the graft environment to favor the survival and optimal function of the implanted cells. Her laboratory works across the spectrum of research, from polymer development, benchtop studies, and preclinical models, to clinical translation.

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