Islet cell transplantation for diabetes turns corner

MIAMI, Aug. 27 More diabetic patients are coming off insulin following pancreatic islet cell transplantation than ever before, according to multiple studies presented today at the XIX International Congress of The Transplantation Society being held through Aug. 30 at the Westin Diplomat Resort and Spa in Hollywood, Fla. One report of new international data shows 80 percent of patients are remaining insulin free one year after receiving infusions of the insulin-producing cells, a success rate that is on a par with whole pancreas transplantation and markedly improved over the 14 percent rate reported for 1998-2000.

One-year, insulin-free status also was achieved in a child who received a mixture of pig cells, without the use of immunosuppressive drugs and without her immune system attacking the animal cells, reported Dr. Rafael Valdes from the Children's Hospital of Mexico and colleagues from the University of Western Ontario and Diatranz, Ltd., of New Zealand. A second child of the 12 in the study was off insulin for six months and currently requires 75 percent less insulin than before the transplant.

The mixture of cells consisted of islet cells and testicular Sertoli cells taken from neonatal pigs. Sertoli cells are thought to have a special ability to subdue immune system T cells, which normally fight against the presence of anything foreign. The researchers gave the cells to 12 children with type 1 diabetes between the ages of 11 and 17 and did not administer any immunosuppressive drugs to protect the cells from being rejected. Six of the 12 patients have functioning grafts, and subsequent to receiving additional transplanted islets at 20 weeks, they have demonstrated improvements in their islet function.

According to the researchers, the pig cells did not elicit the expected immune system response in the patients, and retransplantation of islets failed to stimulate a secondary response against the pig cells as well.


Contact: Lisa Rossi
Transplantation Society

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