Researchers step toward diabetes cure – International Pages – Brief Article
NEW YORK — In one of the most important clinical advances reported in diabetes research over the past decade, investigators representing the Islet Transplant Team at the University of Alberta reported that eight diabetes patients had successfully received islet cell transplants during the past year. In addition, all eight patients are still producing all the insulin their bodies need, the researchers reported, and have abandoned the usual regiment of insulin injections.
The Juvenile Diabetes Foundation called this finding “a very significant step forward in curing type 1 diabetes.” The process involves transplanting healthy, insulin-producing islet cells from a donor source into a diabetic liver.
While research has focused on islet cell transplantation For over 25 years, most attempts have failed or succeeded only briefly. The success in the Canadian study has been attributed to several factors, specifically the use of new combinations of immunosuppressive drugs to prevent rejection and the transplantation of many more pancreas cells than in previous studies.
The eight patients in the study were 20 to 53 years old, all with severe type 1 diabetes poorly controlled by insulin shots.
With the innovative use of conventional immunosuppressive drugs–small doses in different combinations–the body’s immune system is prevented from attacking the foreign islets. This results in a very high success ratio in which the transplant recipient is once again naturally generating his or her own insulin to control blood glucose levels, freeing the patient from wildly fluctuating blood sugar levels that lead to the many complications of diabetes. “That’s always been our long-term goal,” said Dr. Ray Rajotte, program director.
The Juvenile Diabetes Foundation and the National Institutes of Health are planning clinical studies to test the new procedure within a few months at eight transplant centers in North America and Europe. Each center will treat four patients.
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