Nanoparticles Improve Immunosuppression, Could Boost Diabetes Treatment
Islet transplantation has emerged over the past few decades as a potential cure for type 1 diabetes. However, transplantation efforts have faced setbacks as the immune system continues to eventually reject new islets. Current immunosuppressive drugs offer inadequate protection for transplanted cells and tissues and are plagued by undesirable side effects.
Now, a team of researchers has discovered a technique to make immunomodulation more effective using nanocarriers to re-engineer the commonly used immunosuppressant rapamycin. Using their rapamycin-loaded nanocarriers, the researchers generated immunosuppression capable of targeting specific cells related to the transplant without suppressing wider immune responses.
The findings were published in Nature Nanotechnology, in the paper titled, “Subcutaneous nanotherapy repurposes the immunosuppressive mechanism of rapamycin to enhance allogeneic islet graft viability.”
Rapamycin is commonly used to suppress immune responses during various treatments and transplants, notable for its wide range of effects on many cell types throughout the body. However, the authors noted that standard oral rapamycin (Rapamune) administration is plagued by poor bioavailability and broad biodistribution.
“To avoid the broad effects of rapamycin during treatment, the drug is typically given at low dosages and via specific routes of administration, mainly orally,” said Evan Scott, PhD, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering. “But in the case of a transplant, you have to give enough rapamycin to systemically suppress T cells, which can have significant side effects like hair loss, mouth sores, and an overall weakened immune system.”