UF researchers awarded five million dollar grant for Type 1 Diabetes research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB)-- Researchers at the University of Florida are one step closer to a breakthrough in a cure for Type 1 Diabetes.

The UF Diabetes Institute has been awarded a five million dollar grant to continue development in the creation of a "pancreatic islet on a chip" for diabetes research.

The islets play a key role in the production of beta cells which produce insulin for the human body.

"In Type 1 Diabetes, your body's own immune system selectively attacks and kills the beta cells," said Cherie Stabler, Ph.D., one of the researchers, and a professor in biomedical engineering. "Without the insulin it's a lethal condition and so a Type 1 patient has to receive insulin either through injections or delivery."

Researchers are able to generate human cells with immune characteristics similar to those found in people with Type 1 Diabetes, and then insert the cells into the chip to replicate the pancreas and it's resulting condition.

"I think one of the big end goals is that we have a model system that reflects what's happening in the pancreas, in the body, in a place where you wouldn't normally be able to do experiments," said Todd Brusko, Ph.D., one of the researchers, and an associate professor of pathology. "The whole point is to create a system where we can test agents in vitro and get answers that are going to reflect what's happening in people developing the disease."

The five-year grant allows researchers to create models to test treatments that would typically take years in clinical trials.