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Antioxidant protects islet cells used in transplants for diabetes

A synthetic antioxidant developed by researchers at National Jewish Medical and Research Center improves the survival of islet cells used in transplants for diabetes. The findings, reported in the August issue of the journal Diabetes by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, could help overcome a significant drawback of the "Edmonton Protocol," a promising treatment for diabetes.

"The antioxidant neutralizes the harmful free radicals generated when islet cells are isolated from the pancreas," said senior author Jon Piganelli, Ph.D., assistant professor of Pediatrics at the Diabetes Institute, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. "More of the islet cells survived in culture. And when we transplanted islet cells into diabetic, immunodeficient mice, it took fewer of the antioxidant-treated islet cells to normalize their blood sugar."

In type 1 diabetes, a person's immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys islet cells that secrete insulin necessary for the metabolism of sugar. Many diabetes patients take insulin shots to make up for the lost islet cells. In 2000, researchers from Edmonton, Alberta, reported new techniques that have made islet-cell transplantation a promising option for patients with type 1 diabetes. It allows patients to produce their own insulin. Patients have to take immunosuppressive drugs to prevent rejection of the transplants, but they maintain better control of their insulin levels, thus reducing the chances of future complications. They also avoid the daily insulin injections. Clinical trials of the "Edmonton protocol" are being conducted at several medical centers around the nation.

One drawback to the Edmonton protocol is that pancreata from at least two donors are needed to supply enough islet cells for one successful transplant. Many cells die during isolation and shortly after transplantation. Since islet cells also rapidly die in culture, surgeons are forc
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Contact: William Allstetter
allstetterw@njc.org
303-398-1002
National Jewish Medical and Research Center
26-Jul-2002


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