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UI Study Suggests Promising Treatment For Diabetic,, Pregnancies

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Pregnant women with diabetes must deal with the costly and difficult tasks of checking their glucose levels and taking insulin several times daily in an effort to ensure their babies are born without birth defects. However, there may be a better way of handling the blood glucose condition during pregnancies, according to results from a University of Iowa study.

Stephen Hunter, M.D., Ph.D., UI assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology, and his colleagues are investigating whether a transplant of specially encapsulated pancreatic islet cells can control a woman's diabetes during pregnancy. Pancreatic islet cells produce insulin, a hormone that becomes deficient in people with diabetes. The UI researchers have already tested the islet cell treatment on mice with great success.

"Successful use of this treatment in pregnancies complicated by diabetes would be a significant advancement for these patients and a major breakthrough in the battle against diabetes-induced birth defects," Hunter said.

An estimated 1.5 million women of child-bearing age in the United States have diabetes. A diabetic pregnancy is one of the leading causes of birth defects, Hunter said. A woman with diabetes is two to five times more likely to give birth to a baby with a birth defect than a woman without the condition.

Many researchers have investigated how to transplant the pancreatic islet cells into people with diabetes as a way to treat the condition permanently; however, there are problems with using the islet cells for life-long diabetes control because the body rejects the cells unless powerful anti-rejections drugs are used.

To prevent rejection without the need for anti-rejection drugs, investigators are encapsulating the pancreatic islet cells within a gelatin. The material allows small substances such as glucose and insulin to pass freely but prevents the large molecules and cells of the immune system from interacting with th
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Contact: Jennifer Cronin
jennifer-cronin@uiowa.edu
319-335-9917
University of Iowa
4-May-1999


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