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- JDRF, the world’s largest nonprofit supporter of Type 1 diabetes research, has awarded a $750,000 grant to a team of Michigan State University researchers.
- The grant project will develop a new imaging approach for monitoring immune responses to promote the success of islet or beta cell transplantations, promising treatments for Type 1 diabetes.
- Improved immune monitoring could improve rapid screening and prediction of transplant rejection to reduce or eliminate use of broad immunosuppression, which would make transplants accessible to more patients.
- The approach could also accelerate the development of methods by preclinical and clinical researchers, who are innovating and evaluating different transplantation techniques, to protect islet transplants from immune rejection.
EAST LANSING, Mich. – Researchers at Michigan State University have teamed up to create a new way to image immune cells in living subjects that could enable new treatment opportunities and better outcomes for patients with Type 1 diabetes.
In particular, the new approach could help bolster the success of cell transplantation strategies used to treat and cure Type 1 diabetes, as well as broaden the pool of patients who are eligible for this promising clinical procedure.
“When transplants work, they work great,” said Bryan Smith, an associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. “But they can be rejected by a patient’s own immune system, which is obviously a major problem. Things can spiral quickly.”
Smith also works in the Institute for Quantitative Health Science and Engineering, or IQ, where his lab is developing new approaches to diagnose and treat disease, specifically cancer and heart disease.
The researchers specialize in creating tiny, engineered particles that team up with immune cells to help spot or remedy problem sites inside the body.
Although Smith had never applied his approaches to diabetes before, the methods represented the kind of innovative ideas an organization called JDRF was looking to support.
Established in 1970 by parents determined to find a cure for their children with Type 1 diabetes, JDRF is the leading global organization funding Type 1 diabetes research, working to “advance life-changing breakthroughs to prevent, treat and cure Type 1 diabetes and its complications.”
“I am not certain how they identified me, but they reached out and said our work might be a good fit,” Smith said. JDRF let him know about a grant opportunity and invited him to chat if he had any questions about it.
After talking with Jaime Giraldo, associate director of research and lead for the cell therapy project at JDRF, Smith agreed the fit felt right. But he needed to find collaborators with complementary areas of expertise to set the team up for success in addressing a condition that Smith hadn’t worked on before.
Fortunately, he didn’t have to look far to find those collaborators right at MSU to create a proposal that earned the team a $750,000 grant from JDRF.
Joining the effort are Anna Moore, director of the Precision Health Program and assistant dean in the College of Human Medicine, along with Peter Wang, an assistant professor in the Precision Health Program and the Department of Radiology.
Before joining MSU, Moore and Wang worked together at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School developing imaging techniques for diabetes.
The team also includes Cheryl Rockwell, an associate professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, who is the acting director of the Applied Immunology Center for Education and Research, or AICER, at MSU.
Rockwell’s laboratory uses a variety of tools and techniques that will help the team understand how its new approach is affecting immune cells.
“In a lot of ways, Michigan State is a unique research environment,” Rockwell said. “It’s exceptionally collegial and collaborative. We strengthen one another.”
By Matt Davenport.
Read on MSUToday.
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