Blood Vessels

The bio-artificial pancreas, ßAir, is to undergo human trials in 8 people with type 1 diabetes.

A bio-artificial is a form of artificial pancreas that responds to blood glucose levels without the need for computer algorithms. ßAir has been developed by Beta-O2, an Israel based company. The ßAir device contains live beta cells, which produce insulin, and is implanted in the body where it functions in a similar way to the pancreas.

Protected from the immune system

The live beta cells are protected from the attack of the immune system of type 1 diabetes but the compromise for this is that the cells cannot access oxygen from the blood. For this reason, the ßAir capsule is kept topped up with oxygen. Feeding the device with oxygen is carried out once every 24 hours.

Previously the bio-artificial pancreas was trialled in one human patient over 10 months. This new trial will give a better chance to test how successful the device is within a variety of patients over a period of two years. The trial will be carried out at Uppsala University Hospital in Sweden.

Long lasting islet cell treatment

If the trial is successful, the development team will continue to develop the product to ensure it is easy to use in daily life. The device currently uses islet cells from human donors but could make use of islet cells from other sources, including from animals or from stem cells. The team are also keen to improve the oxygen supply to the cells such as via an automated supply.

Chairman of the Board of Beta-O2, Dan Gelvan states: “We don’t know yet how long it lasts, but conventional islet transplants continue to function well for eight to nine years. We hope that because we’ve created a protected microenvironment fed by oxygen, it will last even longer.”