After such transplant, the cells move towards the graft in search of destruction, but are wiped out by a molecule called FasL.
One advantage of this new method is the opportunity to potentially forgo a lifetime of taking immunosuppressive drugs, which counteract the immune system’s ability to seek and destroy a foreign object when introduced into the body, such as an organ, or in this case, cell, transplant.
“The major problem with immunosuppressive drugs is that they are not specific, so they can have a lot of adverse effects, such as high instances of developing cancer,” Shirwan said. “So, using our technology, we found a way that we can modulate or train the immune system to accept, and not reject, these transplanted cells.”
Shirwan and Esma Yolcu, a professor of child health and molecular microbiology and immunology at the MU School of Medicine, have spent the last two decades targeting an apoptosis mechanism that prevents “rogue” immune cells from causing diabetes or rejection of transplanted pancreatic islets by attaching FasL molecule to the islets’ surface.
Type 1 diabetes is estimated to affect around 1.8 million Americans. Although type 1 diabetes often develops in childhood or adolescence, it can occur in adulthood.