Researchers have developed a new implantable device that has the potential to change the way type 1 diabetics receive insulin. The implant is called SHEATH (Subcutaneous Host-Enabled Alginate THread) and is installed in two steps. First, it is introduced under the skin nylon catheter, which will stay there for up to six weeks. During that time, blood vessels will form around it, which will later support the distribution of the insulin it secretes special (about ten centimeters) devicewhich place the catheter in the space after removing it.
They designed and tested the implantation technique researchers from Cornell and Alberta universities. Cornell’s Minglin Ma, a professor of biological and environmental engineering, created the first implantable polymer called TRAFFIC (Thread-Reinforced Alginate Fiber For Islets enCapsulation) in 2017, which was designed to be placed in a patient’s abdomen. In 2021, Mao’s team developed an even more robust implantable device that was able to control blood sugar levels in mice for six months.
The current problem with the SHEATH device is his long-term application in patients. “It is very difficult to keep this device working long-term inside the body … because the device blocks the blood vessels, but the natural islet cells that produce insulin are known to be in direct contact with the blood vessels that provide nutrients and oxygen,” explained Ma. However, the implant could one day replace the current standard treatment for type 1 diabetes, which requires either daily injections or insulin pumps.