Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease associated with the destruction of insulin-producing β cells. Immunotherapies are being developed to mitigate autoimmune diabetes. One promising option is the delivery of tolerogenic dendritic cells (DCs) primed with specific β-cell-associated autoantigens. These DCs can combat autoreactive cells and promote expansion of β-cell-specific regulatory immune cells, including Tregs. Tolerogenic DCs are typically injected systemically (or near target lymph nodes) in suspension, precluding control over the microenvironment surrounding tolerogenic DC interactions with the host. In this study we show that degradable, synthetic methacrylic acid (MAA)-based hydrogels are an inherently immunomodulating delivery vehicle that enhances tolerogenic DC therapy in the context of autoimmune diabetes. MAA hydrogels were found to affect the local recruitment and activation state of macrophages, DCs, T cells and other cells. Delivering tolerogenic DCs in the MAA hydrogel improved the local host response (e.g., fewer cytotoxic T cells) and enhanced peripheral Treg expansion. Non obese diabetic (NOD) mice treated with tolerogenic DCs subcutaneously injected in MAA hydrogels showed a delay in onset of autoimmune diabetes compared to control vehicles. Our findings further demonstrate the usefulness of MAA-based hydrogels as platforms for regenerative medicine in the context of type 1 diabetes.
Keywords: Biomaterial; Immunomodulation; Injectable hydrogel; Methacrylic acid; Tolerogenic dendritic cell.
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