Researchers in Sweden have unveiled a groundbreaking microscale device designed for implantation in the eye, unlocking new possibilities for cell-based treatments targeting diabetes and other diseases. Crafted through 3D printing by a collaborative effort between KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Karolinska Institutet, the device aims to encapsulate insulin-producing pancreatic cells along with electronic sensors. The team’s findings, outlined in the journal Advanced Materials, showcase the potential for innovative cell-based therapies, particularly for diabetes, utilizing the eye as a strategic platform.

Precision Implantation Without Sutures

The collaboration between KTH and Karolinska Institutet allows for the precise positioning of micro-organs, specifically pancreatic islets or islets of Langerhans, within the eye without the need for sutures. This opens avenues for treating Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes by leveraging the unique immune-privileged and transparent characteristics of the eye. Anna Herland, senior lecturer in the Division of Bionanotechnology at SciLifeLab at KTH and the AIMES research center at KTH and Karolinska Institutet, emphasizes the eye’s suitability for this technology due to its immunity and transparent attributes, facilitating real-time observations of the implant’s behavior.

Innovative Design and Functionality

The microscale device, shaped as a wedge measuring approximately 240 micrometers in length, is strategically engineered for mechanical fixation in the anterior chamber of the eye (ACE). This design achieves the first-ever mechanical fixation of a device in the anterior chamber of the eye. Wouter van der Wijngaart, professor in the Division of Micro- and Nanosystems at KTH, highlights the device’s unique features, including a flap door technique that eliminates the need for additional fixation.

Promising Outcomes in Animal Testing

In extensive tests on mice, the microscale device demonstrated remarkable stability, maintaining its position within the organism for several months. The mini-organs encapsulated in the device seamlessly integrated with the host animal’s blood vessels, exhibiting normal functionality. Per-Olof Berggren, professor of experimental endocrinology at Karolinska Institutet, who contributed valuable expertise in transplanting islets of Langerhans in mice, emphasizes the uniqueness of the current unit, laying the foundation for future work on an integrated microsystem.

Overcoming Challenges in Diabetes Treatment

This groundbreaking technology addresses a significant hurdle in developing cell therapies for diabetes. The device eliminates the need for invasive monitoring methods, ensuring the long-term success of transplants. Anna Herland envisions this as a crucial first step toward advanced medical microdevices capable of localizing and monitoring cell grafts’ functionality. The design not only enables precise positioning of mini-organs but also lays the groundwork for incorporating more advanced functionalities, such as integrated electronics or drug release, in the future.

By Impact Lab