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20th December 2021 Latest News

Striving to Improve Islet Transplantation

Dr Sebastian Stead

Islet transplantation is revolutionising treatment for type 1 diabetes and other chronic conditions like pancreatitis, changing the lives of those living with the debilitating conditions.

Right now, the world-class research team supported by Kidney, Transplant & Diabetes Research Australia (KTDRA) are working hard to make islet transplantation more readily available for all living with these chronic conditions.

Currently when patients undergo an islet transplant they have to take antirejection medication following the procedure, which can have severe side effects. It’s for this reason, islet transplants are only offered to people living with severe type 1 diabetes who suffer from regular hypoglycaemic episodes.

Islet transplantation is an innovative treatment and potential cure for type 1 diabetes, involving the transplantation of isolated islet cells from a donor pancreas into another person.

For the last three years, PhD student Sebastian Stead has been investigating a new way to prevent the side effects of these antirejection medications following an islet transplant.

“My project is aiming to use nanoparticles as a new way of delivering anti-rejection medication directly to key immune cells in the patient. This would be a more localised method than what is currently used to take medications and could prevent the drugs side effects,” Sebastian explained.

Having proved nanoparticles are a successful vehicle for delivering medication, Sebastian is now about to launch the next aspect of his project that will determine if there is a therapeutic benefit of using nanoparticles to deliver drugs to immune cells.

“Currently, we are optimistic. Initial experiments have shown that these nanoparticles do end up in the liver, which is the current site for islet transplantation.”

If this new way of delivering medication proves successful, Sebastian says there is potential for this treatment to have a wider impact than just for type 1 diabetes sufferers.

“We’ve discovered the nanoparticles also like to go to the kidneys, which would be highly beneficial for kidney transplant recipients as a new way to deliver drugs to help minimise organ rejection without the horrible side effects,” he said.

“In fact, this new treatment could be beneficial for anyone who has received an organ transplant such as a kidney, liver, heart, lung transplant and more.

“The main side effect of the transplant drugs are increased risk of cancer and infection. If our therapy is successful, we could minimise if not prevent these side effects to improve patient quality of life and potentially prolong the transplanted organ’s lifespan in the process.”

Showing very promising results for type 1 diabetes sufferers and other transplant patients, we look forward to updating you on Sebastian’s groundbreaking research as he nears closer to finishing his PhD.