In a finding that could significantly influence the way type 1 diabetes is treated, researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have developed a technique for transplanting insulin-producing pancreatic cells that causes only a minimal immune response in recipients.
At present, cell transplantation therapy is limited because transplant recipients are forced to take powerful immunosuppressant medications that have toxic side effects and raise the risk of infection. This advance in mice, described in the online version of Gene Therapy, could pave the way for routine use of cell transplants as a therapy for type 1 diabetes in humans.
Type 1 diabetes is an incurable autoimmune disease in which the immune system mistakenly destroys the body's own pancreatic beta cells. Beta cells produce insulin, which breaks down sugar, or glucose, for use by the body. Without these cells, too much glucose builds up in the blood. High blood glucose levels damage cells and can eventually lead to complications such as heart disease, kidney disease, blindness, and premature death.
Type 1 diabetes affects up to 2.4 million Americans and can develop at any age, though it typically appears during childhood or adolescence. People with type 1 diabetes must closely monitor their blood glucose levels and take daily insulin injections for life.
A promising alternative to insulin injections is cellular transplantation, in which beta cells are harvested from cadavers and injected into the bloodstream of patients with diabetes; the new cells replace the recipients' destroyed pancreatic beta cells. Although such transplants can control type 1 diabetes, recipients must take immunosuppressant medications in order to prevent rejection of these beta foreign cells. "Ultimately, even with immunosuppressive therapy, most of these individuals end up rejecting the transplanted cells," says the study's principal investigator, Ha
|Contact: Mike Heller|
Albert Einstein College of Medicine