Scientists are trying to figure out how to transplant islet cells and then protect them from the patient’s immune system so that long-term immunosuppressive medications aren’t required. Micro encapsulation is an approach scientists are testing to find out if a special coating to the transplanted islets can help the patient avoid rejection of those islets. These coatings let in nutrients to nourish the cells but prevent your body’s immune system from attacking them.
Currently, people with diabetes who receive a transplanted pancreas (typically not possible unless you are also having a kidney transplant) or who receive islet-cell transplants as part of a research study in the US must take these drugs so that their own body won’t attack the new cells. The drugs work, but raise risk for bacterial and viral infections as well as for mouth sores, nausea, diarrhea, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, fatigue and even some cancers.
Diabetes is a disease in which your blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels are too high. Glucose comes from the foods you eat. Insulin is a hormone that helps the glucose get into your cells to give them energy. With type 1 diabetes, your body does not make insulin. With type 2 diabetes, the more common type, your body does not make or use insulin well. Without enough insulin, the glucose stays in your blood. You can also have prediabetes. This means that your blood sugar is higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes. Having prediabetes puts you at a higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes.