Still, the findings suggest it is possible to obtain precious insulin-producing cells from sources other than human pancreases, which like other donor organs, are in scarce supply. Besides there being too few organs, also affecting the availability of islets is the amount of time pancreases can be safely preserved and competition from centers that transplant the entire pancreas. But unlike solid organ transplantation, for every patient needing an islet cell transplant, two donor organs generally are required because one organ alone usually cannot provide a sufficient number of cells for successful engraftment in the patient. Preliminary results from the University of Minnesota suggest that in selected recipients it is possible to achieve consistent insulin independence following transplants of islets from single donors.
With between 120 and 140 million people worldwide suffering from diabetes, much research is focused on making more efficient use of available organs as well as identifying additional sources of viable cells for transplantation.
Embryonic stem cells, which are primitive cells that have the potential to become a wide variety of specialized cell types and are capable of self-renewal, represent a possible answer to this shortage of cells for transplantation because of their ability to proliferate. Stem cells also can be genetically modified, and have proven to be useful in different animal models, as in a study
presented by Dr. Bernat Soria of Miguel Hernandez University in Alicante, Spain. Mouse embryonic stem cells were successfully coaxed into producing islets that effectively normalized blood glucose levels within on
Contact: Lisa Rossi