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The Bioartificial Project at The University of California, Irvine

By: Debbie George/EASE T1D.org/June, 23, 2018

(From left to right) Dat Nguyen, Mark Keating, Avid Najdahmadi, Alicja Jagiello, Mellonie Zhang, Luciano Groisman, Elliot Botvinick, Rachel Gurlin

Michelle and I had the pleasure of meeting Elliot Botvinick, Associate Professor, Biomedical Engineering, University of California, Irvine, and his team this past Tuesday, June 18, 2018.

We were thrilled to be given a tour of their lab and shown what he and his team are working on with regards to Type 1 Diabetes.

 

Professor Botvinick established the Bio-Engineering of Advanced Mechanical Systems (BEAMS) Laboratory at UC Irvine in 2007.  It is part of the University of California Irvine's Departments of Surgery and Biomedical Engineering.  Professor Botvinick's research focuses on the relationship between mechanical stresses on cells and molecular signaling, or cellular mechanotransduction.

 

Although Professor Botvinick has several projects team members are working on, we were interested in finding out more about the Bioartificial Pancreas project. 

 

Rachel Gurlin, Biomedical Engineering graduate PhD student, is the lead for this project and gave us the details.  "For the past few decades, researchers have been working on encapsulating islets, or pancreatic cell clusters that contain beta cells, and transplanting them into type 1 diabetic patients in order to control blood glucose levels. The problem with this approach is that it can take days to weeks for new blood vessels to form to the transplant site, leaving the cells starved and without oxygen, killing them in the process. Our approach to combat this is to develop a prevascularized site and device for islet transplantation. First the thin sheet device is implanted under the skin to allow it to integrate with blood vessels and tissue via slits that are through-cut holes through the whole device. A few weeks later, the islets are then transplanted into the device channels, which allow islets to be placed in a single file configuration so that the competition for resources is minimized and islets can be aspirated or flushed if they need to be replaced. We call this the “civil engineering approach” by first building the foundation, or the device, and the plumbing, the vascular network, so that at a later date, the homeowners or islets can move-in. With this biological approach, we hope to achieve greater glucose control and 'hands-off' management of type 1 diabetes."   Pretty impressive, who doesn't want "hands-off" T1D management?!  

The project is in its beginning stages of device design and testing.  If you would like to learn more about Professor Botvinick, his team, and their projects, please visit their website at http://sites.uci.edu/beamslab

We are thankful to Professor Botvinick and his team for taking time out of their busy day to show us their innovative and brilliant work.  It is exciting to know this is taking place right in our own backyard so to speak! 

We are hopeful for what the future holds and wish Professor Botvinick and his team the best of success in their future endeavors.