The Goal of the Research Center
The Rina & Avner Schneur Diabetes research center brings together top researchers aiming to find cure to diabetes mellitus.
Diabetes is one of the most prevalent diseases worldwide and its incidence continues to rise. Over 1 million deaths per year can be attributed to diabetes alone, making it the ninth leading cause of mortality. Uncontrollably high blood glucose in diabetic patients may lead to serious complications, such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetic neuropathy, nephropathy and retinopathy. Maintaining safe blood glucose levels is essential for prevention of these complications. Thus, effective diabetes treatment is extremely important in order to avoid disability and prolong life expectancy.
There are two common types of diabetes both characterized by a high blood sugar level over a prolonged period. Type 1 diabetes is caused by the loss of insulin producing cells in the pancreatic islets, whereas in type 2 diabetes the skeletal muscle and fat tissue becomes insulin resistant. Both types of diabetes require lifelong medication use, which does not restore the lost tissue function and therefore do not cure the disease. Tissue engineering gives an opportunity to replace dysfunctional tissue or improve the functionality of native tissue and thereby provide the body with internal resources to fight diabetes. Our research center focuses on developing tissue engineering strategies for treatment of both diabetes types.
In the case of type 1 diabetes, we focus on creating implantable vascularized pancreatic islets. In the past we have demonstrated that the presence of blood vessels improves insulin secretion and promotes rapid tissue integration of donor islets upon implantation. The use of 3D bioprinting technology helps us to generate functional vascularized pancreatic tissue in vitro avoiding the use of donor islets. In the next stage of this research, we aim to improve the 3D printed vascularized islets production and test their treatment potential in vivo.
For the treatment of type 2 diabetes we propose to improve metabolic state of the skeletal muscle using engineered muscle constructs capable of enhanced glucose uptake. Our preclinical study in diabetic mice has shown that replacing even a small portion of skeletal muscle with the upgraded engineered tissue results in a systemic and long-term reduction of blood glucose levels. In the next stage of this research, we aim to focus on developing skeletal muscle constructs suitable for minimally invasive delivery which would allow multiple site muscle tissue repair for maximized treatment effect with a minimum discomfort for patients.
This project brings together researchers from the faculty of Biomedical engineering, Prof Shulamit Levenberg and the faculty of Medicine, Prof. Eddy karnieli, at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology to seek for a cure to type 2 diabetes. In addition, we collaborate with Dr. Eli Lewis from Ben-gurion University of the Negev.