Patients with the most severe form of Diabetes Type 1 may benefit from islet cell transplants, say scientists from Canada. Patients would still need insulin shots after the procedure.

You can read about this study in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), 28th September, 2006, issue.

Since 2000, 36 patients from the USA, Canada and Europe have undergone islet cell transplants. One year after their operation 10 patients experienced no benefit (the transplanted cells didn't survive), 10 had better control of their illness, while the remaining 16 did not need daily insulin injections.

Islet cell transplants were seen as the ultimate cure for people with diabetes type 1 six years ago when the procedure first began. The researchers say that for the moment, the procedure is not the cure everyone was hoping for. It can only be used on a selected number of patients. However, the scientists believe the day will come when Diabetes Type 1 patients no longer need to take their daily insulin shots.

The main problems with transplants are:

-- The side effects, such as the toxic effects of immunosuppressant drugs, reduction in white blood cell levels, pneumonia, anemia and ulcers.

-- The patient needs repeat transfusion of cells. In the majority of cases the transplanted cells burn out through metabolic exhaustion.

It would be extremely difficult to continue topping up the number of islet cells for millions of diabetes type 1 sufferers around the world. Ideally, say the scientists, islet cells could one day be grown in the laboratory from stem cells - something we are not yet able to do.

"International Trial of the Edmonton Protocol for Islet Transplantation"
New England Journal of Medicine
Volume 355:1318-1330 September 28, 2006 Number 13
Click here to see abstract online
A.M. James Shapiro, M.D., Ph.D., Camillo Ricordi, M.D., Bernhard J. Hering, M.D., Hugh Auchincloss, M.D., Robert Lindblad, M.D., R. Paul Robertson, M.D., Antonio Secchi, M.D., Mathias D. Brendel, M.D., Thierry Berney, M.D., Daniel C. Brennan, M.D., Enrico Cagliero, M.D., Rodolfo Alejandro, M.D., Edmond A. Ryan, M.D., Barbara DiMercurio, R.N., Philippe Morel, M.D., Kenneth S. Polonsky, M.D., Jo-Anna Reems, Ph.D., Reinhard G. Bretzel, M.D., Federico Bertuzzi, M.D., Tatiana Froud, M.D., Raja Kandaswamy, M.D., David E.R. Sutherland, M.D., Ph.D., George Eisenbarth, M.D., Ph.D., Miriam Segal, Ph.D., Jutta Preiksaitis, M.D., Gregory S. Korbutt, Ph.D., Franca B. Barton, M.S., Lisa Viviano, R.N., Vicki Seyfert-Margolis, Ph.D., Jeffrey Bluestone, Ph.D., and Jonathan R.T. Lakey, Ph.D.

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