Dedicated researchers are leading the way in groundbreaking new treatments for type 1 diabetes through the development of a 3D printer that can print insulin producing islet cells to treat this debilitating condition.

Leading this life changing research is Professor Toby Coates and his team of experts at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, in collaboration with the Bioengineering team at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science Intelligent Polymer Research Institute at the University of Wollongong.

As you may know, islet transplantation has recently revolutionised treatment for type 1 diabetes, and in many cases has cured people of the chronic condition they’ve been living with for decades.

“We currently use islet transplantation to treat patients with severe or unstable diabetes. This is done by transplanting donor islet cells which can restore the diabetes sufferer’s capacity to produce insulin and regulate blood sugar levels,” Prof Coates said.

Whilst successful in many cases, the islet transplantation treatment is only an option for those with severe diabetes due to a number of complexities and barriers. Prof Coates is confident this can be fixed with an innovative and life-changing 3D printer.

“The current islet transplant procedure relies on donor islet cells being available for the transplant, and it also involves the patient having to take immunosuppression medication to stop their immune system from rejecting the cells. This medication has a number of negative effects including organ toxicity and an increased risk of cancer,” Prof Coates explained.

“At this stage we transplant these islets into the patient’s liver, and whilst it has been successful, in the process we lose about 75 percent of these islets in the first few hours.”

This could all change thanks to this world-first research! Using the 3D printer, Prof Coates and the team are creating an artificial pancreas that is custom designed to fix the problems currently associated with the islet transplant procedure.

“Our goal is to use the patient’s own cells to grow the islet cells they need to produce insulin, solving the problem of donor rejection and the need for additional medication,” Prof Coates said.

“Within this artificial pancreas we are putting an ink comprised of islet cells along with two or three different cell types that will protect the islets once they’ve been transplanted.

“It’s like we’re creating a defensive castle wall around the outside of these islet cells. This wall will include cells that fight the immune system’s rejection and also cells to promote the function of these islet cells.

“What this means is that we’ll avoid having to transplant the islet cells into the liver, patients will not have to take immunosuppression medication orally and we’ll be able to make more islet cells available.”

With your support, this breakthrough research can revolutionise type 1 diabetes treatment, making islet transplantation more widely available to all those living with diabetes and save more lives.

“I believe this printer will enable us to treat more people with diabetes and eventually get to the point of having a large number of cells available and curing diabetes completely!”





would you like to regularly support Prof Coates' research?