Emmanuel C. Opara, PhD
Emmanuel C. Opara, Ph.D, Professor
Dr. Emmanuel C. Opara was originally trained as a clinical biochemist at the University of Surrey, Guildford Surrey, England, where he received his M.Sc degree. He obtained his Ph.D from the University of London, England in 1984 when he came to the U.S as a W.H.O Fellow in Endocrinology/Metabolism at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. From there, he proceeded to the NIDDK of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD where he served as a Visiting Fellow from 1986 to 1988 when he was recruited to the faculty of the Department of Surgery at Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC. In 2003 he joined the faculty of the Pritzker Institute of Biomedical Science and Engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago while serving as Senior Investigator in the Human Islet Transplant Program at the University of Chicago.
Dr. Opara serves as Associate Editor for Pancreas and as a reviewer for more than thirty peer-reviewed scientific and medical journals. Dr. Opara has led or served on numerous professional and government committees, including National Institutes of Health, the US Food & Drugs Administration, and Centers for Disease Control Study Sections. He is a member of many Professional associations and has organized and chaired several symposia for the American Federation of Medical Research. He has several patents dealing with cell microencapsulation procedures and devices. He has received many honors and awards, including the Distinguished Service Award of the Society of Black Academic Surgeons in 2007.
SYNOPSIS OF AREA OF INTEREST: Bioartificial pancreas - Islet Cell research: Development of procedures and devices to realize the clinical potential of the encapsulated islet technology is presently the main focus of my research. Areas of investigation include biomaterials for cell encapsulation, massively parallel concepts in cell microencapsulation, rapid tests of islet cell function, and use of alginate microcapsules for drug delivery in angiogenesis.
Type 2 Diabetes, Obesity and the Metabolic Syndrome: This was my primary area of research for many years, and remains an area of tremendous interest to me with particular interest in nutritional and pharmacologic strategies to prevent and treat obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
DETAILED AREA OF INTEREST: It has been extensively shown that islet transplantation has the potential to cure Type 1 diabetes. However, the procedure is currently not widely available to patients with the disease because of the severe shortage of human islets to meet the needs of millions of patients and the need to use immunosuppressive drugs to prevent transplant rejection. My research is designed to overcome these two major barriers to routine use of islet transplantation to treat individuals afflicted with Type 1 diabetes.
My approach in the research involves immunoisolation of islets in alginate microcapsules equipped with a semi-permeable membrane that allows the movement of nutrients, oxygen, water and insulin, while excluding immune cells and antibodies, which are toxic to islet cells. Thus, the microencapsulation technique has the potential to expand the islet donor pool since islets procured from stem cells, or animals, such as the pig, could be encapsulated and transplanted without the need for long-term use of immunosuppressive drugs. The encapsulation procedure is currently being modified to permit co-encapsulation of islets and angiogenic proteins to promote new blood vessel formation around encapsulated islet graft and enhance graft survival and function. We are all also designing and manufacturing microencapsulation devices suitable for mass production of encapsulated islets for large animal experiments and clinical application.