Insulin-Producing Cells Made in the Liver

Nuvilex plans to create a diabetes treatment with liver-grown beta cells.

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Researchers in Australia have succeeded in creating a new line of insulin-producing cells made in the liver, and it has the potential to become a new diabetes treatment. Nuvilex, a biotechnology company, purchased the rights to the cells and will be working to get the product on the market in the U.S., Australia, and Europe, according to a University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) news article.

UTS professor Ann Simpson developed the insulin-producing cells, known as “Melligen” cells, with colleagues. The 20-year project has focused on coaxing insulin production from the liver. Simpson says that the idea behind her research came when she realized that the pancreas and liver have similar biological makeup. She believed there was a way to activate liver cells so that they could act like insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.

Nuvilex hopes to use their “Cell-in-a-Box” technology to encapsulate Melligen cells, thus protecting them from autoimmune attack. This will require further testing to ensure that the coated Melligen cells can rapidly respond in an “on demand” situation and release insulin into the bloodstream. Before this technique goes for FDA approval, the company will test its effectiveness on diabetic animals and in human trials. So far, Melligen cells have responded positively to surrounding glucose in lab model studies.

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Travis served as a staff writer for Insulin Nation and Type 2 Nation in 2015. Previously, he was a staff writer for Insight, a high school newspaper, as well as a copywriter for The Emersonian, Emerson's yearbook.