Diabetes

Genetically engineered muscle tissue being developed to treat type 2 diabetes

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Injections of genetically engineered muscle tissue hold great promise in treating type 2 diabetes (T2D), according to research to be presented at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes in Stockholm, Sweden (19–23 Sept).

T2D, the most common type of diabetes, is responsible worldwide for more than 1,000,000 deaths annually. Insulin resistance—where the body’s cells don’t respond properly to insulin and can’t easily take up glucose from blood, causing blood sugar levels to rise—is a key feature of T2D. High blood sugar levels can lead to damage to the heart, eyes and feet over time. They also reduce life expectancy by about ten years.

T2D can be treated with oral medication and lifestyle modifications initially. However, most people will eventually need insulin injections. Researchers at Technion Israel Institute of Technology and Levenberg Lab developed genetically engineered muscle tissue that can absorb more sugar from the blood to find a better treatment.

Previous research showed that the transplantation genetically engineered muscles cells into diabetic mice resulted in a significant improvement in blood sugar levels. Hagit Shoyhet, researcher, says that a single transplant of engineered tissue maintained blood sugar levels at a lower level for four months.

The team used the same technique to modify human muscle cells using the latest research. The cells were engineered so that they could produce more insulin-activated glucose transporter (GLUT4). This protein is known to aid cells in taking in sugar. The cells were then grown into 3D tissue in the lab on scaffolds—matrices made from a biopolymer. The new tissue was able take up half the sugar of normal muscle tissue, according to tests.

Through a small incision made in the abdomen, pieces of tissue measuring 6 mm in size were then transplanted into diabetic mouse models. Their blood glucose levels were also monitored. The transplant resulted is a drop in blood glucose levels of approximately 20%. The team also created a sponge-like, flexible scaffold that could be injected with a needle, eliminating the need for surgery.

The new scaffold allowed for normal growth of the tissue. Tests revealed that injections did not cause any damage to the tissue on the new scaffold. The tissue could still absorb sugar from blood.

Shoyhet states, “New treatments are urgently required for type 2 diabetes.” Our technique would allow patients to modify their cells to absorb more glucose.

“Preliminary results suggest that this approach has great potential. In future, a single injectable of engineered tissue may provide long-lasting glucose control, significantly increasing quality of life and life expectancy.”

The researchers are currently doing more preclinical work and hope to launch clinical trials soon.


A novel treatment for type 2 diabetes has been shown to prolong normal blood sugar levels following a single procedure


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To treat type 2 diabetes (2022, September 21,) genetically engineered muscles are being developed
Retrieved 21 September 2022
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