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Bioartificial Pancreas refinement (BAPrefinement)
Start date: Sep 1, 2014, End date: Aug 31, 2018 PROJECT  FINISHED 

The proposed project aims at making a substantial contribution to the success of bioartificial pancreases and thus to a cure for type 1 diabetes (T1D). The latter is an autoimmune disease that destroys pancreatic beta cells which are responsible for insulin production. Mostly it strikes at a young age. Patients depend on frequent insulin injections for the rest of their life. Despite these burdensome injections, acute and long-term complications are frequent and often severe. Beta cell transplantation represents the only means of restoring physiological blood glucose control in T1D patients. But it has been hampered by a shortage of donor organs and the detrimental effects of immune suppressive medication. The latter can be circumvented by encapsulation of beta cells prior to implantation. Efforts to translate this concept of the so-called bioartificial pancreas into a clinical product have proven difficult due to poor survival of the transplanted beta cells. The current proposal aims at (1) introducing a novel type of surrogate beta cell which is much more robust than native islet cells and (2) establishing the use of an encapsulation material with superior biocompatibility. These two advancements combined are likely to improve survival and long-term functionality of the bioartificial pancreas.The researcher masterminding this project has spent the last 5 years in a bioencapsulation company in Asia’s biotech hub Singapore, most recently in the role as Chief Scientist.The host organisation, the Vorarlberg Institute for Vascular Investigation and Treatment (VIVIT), is a centre of excellence for basic and clinical research on vascular diseases and diabetes. With the researcher on board, the VIVIT is currently establishing its cell encapsulation capability and applying it to diabetes therapy. This is by far not the only area where researcher and host organisation complement each other but it is one of the most timely and relevant topics in applied diabetes research.
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