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Diabetes Islet Transplants Closer to Reality

Single-Donor Islet Transplant for Type 1 Diabetes Passes Major Hurdle

WebMD Health News

Feb. 15, 2005 -- Scientists have long sought a way to treat diabetes using transplants. Early success of a single-donor islet transplantislet transplant in treating type 1 diabetes may bring the promise of the experimental diabetes treatment one step closer to reality.

A new study showed that eight people with type 1 diabetes who received an islet transplant from a single cadaver donor no longer needed insulin injections one year later, and five of the transplant recipients no longer needed them for more than one year.

People with type 1 diabetes cannot make insulin to control blood sugar levels and must take insulin injections to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.

Islets are insulin-producing cells found in the pancreas. Although islet transplants have shown much promise in allowing people to gain independence from insulin therapy, current methods require transplanting a higher number of islets from two to four donor pancreases.

Researchers say in order for islet transplants to become a reality in treating type 1 diabetes, additional advances are needed, such as requiring only one donor pancreas to reduce risks and costs and to increase the availability of islet cells.

Islet Transplants Inch Closer to Reality

In the study, researchers examined the safety and effectiveness of single-donor islet transplant. The results appear in the Feb. 16 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.

In order to increase the chances of success, researchers took steps to reduce damage to islet cells while the donor pancreas was in storage. They also required that recipients use immunotherapy drugs before transplantation to help prevent their immune systems from rejecting the cells.

The islet transplants were conducted from July 2001 to August 2003 in eight women with type 1 diabetes.

The results showed that the transplanted islets were able to detect blood sugar levels and secrete insulin in all eight single-donor islet transplant recipients, freeing them from insulin injections.

Five of the recipients remained insulin independent for longer than one year.

No serious or unexpected side effects were associated with the islet transplants.

Researchers say this early success with a single-donor islet transplant procedure is a major advance but further study in a larger group of people with type 1 diabetes over a longer period of time is needed.

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