The Diabetes Program: innovation & Leadership in Engineering Technologies and Therapies (ILET^) is a unique, cross-disciplinary postdoctoral training program in cell- and tissue-based therapies and novel insulin delivery technologies for insulin-dependent diabetes (IDD). IDD is a significant health problem affecting millions of people in the U.S and worldwide. Compared to current treatments based on insulin injections or open-loop insulin pumps, new generation therapies have the potential to provide a less invasive, more physiologic and ultimately less costly regulation of blood glucose levels, potentially reducing long-term complications and revolutionizing diabetes care. There is a critical need for cross-disciplinary training of bioengineers and bioscientists in the complex problems relating to developing living biological substitutes for beta cell replacement and the artificial pancreas, which encompass fundamental science, bioengineering and translational medicine. ILET^ is a joint training program between the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University School of Medicine. This program will train the future research experts in this field by providing trainees with expertise in the following areas critical to advancing the next generation therapies for diabetes: 1) the ability to develop new islet encapsulation and engraftment systems, including new biomaterials and processes; 2) the ability to engineer immune acceptance of islet allografts and xenografts; 3) the ability to engineer non-beta insulin- secreting, physiologically responsive cells as an alternative to islets; and 4) the ability to develop new methods for glucose sampling and insulin delivery towards a closed loop artificial pancreas system. Research-based training in cell-based therapies will specialize in encapsulated systems for islets and other insulin-secreting cells; the engineering of potentially autologous beta cell surrogates; the development of vasculogenic hydrogels for improved islet engraftment; methods to conduct non-invasive monitoring of islet transplants; and development of immune acceptance protocols for free and encapsulated islet allografts and xenografts. Training specific to insulin delivery methods will focus on the engineering of microneedle technologies for glucose sampling and delivery of insulin, including microfabrication and biomaterials, ultimately as part of a closed loop artificial pancreas system. The research training program will encompass exposure to the clinical aspects of diabetes management and patient care, as well as the industrial aspects of biotechnology development and commercialization. Upon successful completion of the program, trainees will be prepared to move into leadership positions in industry and academia and develop new, cutting-edge technologies and therapies for diabetics aimed at improving the quality of life of patients and reducing the economic burden .on the diabetic population and the overall healthcare costs.
Diabetes is a significant health problem affecting approximately 23.6 million people in the US;furthermore, it is estimated that the diabetics who receive insulin either by itself or in combination with oral medication are 27% of the total population of diabetics, or roughly 6.4 million people in the US. New generation therapies comprised of living pancreatic substitutes or closed-loop artificial pancreas systems have the potential to provide a less invasive, more physiologic and ultimately less costly regulation of blood glucose levels than current treatments based on insulin injections or open-loop insulin pumps. This application aims to develop a comprehensive, cross-disciplinary research and education program for the in-depth training of post-doctoral fellows in the next generation technologies and therapies for insulin-dependent diabetes.