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Embryonic pig cell transplants halt rat diabetes

St. Louis, Feb. 25, 2004 -- An experimental cross-species transplant to treat diabetes has passed an early test in rats with better-than-expected results, suggesting the innovative approach might halt type 1 diabetes while greatly reducing the risk of rejection.

Scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis set up control and experimental groups of rats with diabetes. The experimental group received embryonic pig pancreas cell transplants and antirejection drugs to prevent the rats' immune systems from destroying the transplants. The control group received only the transplants and no immune suppression drugs. To the researchers' surprise, the control group's transplants grew unmolested by the immune system, halting the rats' diabetes and changing the focus of the study to transplanting without the need for immune suppression.

"Every once in a while you get lucky, and now we have the possibility of transplanting these pig cells and not having to worry about rejection," says Marc R. Hammerman, M.D., the Chromalloy Professor of Renal Diseases in medicine and leader of the study.

The results appear online and will be published in the April issue of The American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Hammerman, an endocrinologist and director of the Renal Division, is a leader in the emerging field of organogenesis, which is focused on growing organs from stem cells and other embryonic cell clusters known as organ primordia. Unlike stem cells, primordia cannot develop into any cell type -- they are locked into becoming a particular cell type or one of a particular set of cell types that make up an organ.

In multiple groups of diabetic rats that were unable to produce their own rat insulin, Hammerman and Sharon Rogers, research instructor in medicine, transplanted pig pancreas primordia into the omentum, a m
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Contact: Michael C. Purdy
purdym@wustl.edu
314-286-0122
Washington University School of Medicine
25-Feb-2004


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