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Porcine islets offer promise for human diabetic patients

ATLANTA -- Islet cell xenotransplantation presents a promising near-term solution to the critically low islet cell supply for humans suffering from type 1 diabetes, according to researchers from the Emory Transplant Center, the Yerkes National Primate Research Center of Emory University and the University of Alberta, Canada. The Emory/Yerkes researchers successfully transplanted and engrafted insulin-producing neonatal porcine islet cells harvested by the University of Alberta researchers into diabetic rhesus macaque monkeys, restoring the monkeys' glucose control and resulting in sustained insulin independence. This research, published in the February 26 advanced online edition of Nature Medicine, also examines the effectiveness of a costimulation blockade-based regimen developed at Emory proven to have fewer toxic side effects than currently used immunosuppressive regimens, and provides essential answers to the possibility of cross-species viral transmission, a common concern of xenotransplantation use in humans.

Islet cell transplantation has been successful in reversing type 1 diabetes in humans, but the limited availability of islet cells greatly diminishes the possibility of meeting the medical needs of more than one million Americans who have the disease. Each year, only 3,000 to 4,000 donor organs are available, and each organ can only produce enough cells for, at most, one transplant.

"To meet the needs of millions of people suffering from type 1 diabetes, we must find new donor sources to allow large-scale application of islet cell transplantation in humans," said Christian P. Larsen, MD, DPhil, director of the Emory Transplant Center and affiliate scientist at the Yerkes Research Center. "While there is much work to be done, these studies suggest the rejection response to porcine islets can be surmounted."

While the Emory/University of Alberta findings are similar to the recently publicized research conducted by the University o
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Contact: Stephanie McNicoll
stephanie.mcnicoll@emory.edu
404-727-9254
Emory University Health Sciences Center
27-Feb-2006


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