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Cross-species transplant in rhesus macaques is step toward diabetes cure for humans
Date:10/18/2007

ccess of the transplants.

As a treatment for diabetes in people, pig insulin typically works as well as the human form. Before recombinant DNA technology enabled pharmaceutical companies to manufacture human insulin in the 1980s, pig and cow insulin were routinely given to diabetic patients.

The primates in the current study had type 1 diabetes, the form that occurs when islet cells in the pancreas stop producing insulin all together. The Washington University researchers transplanted 19 embryonic pig pancreatic primordia into each diabetic monkey. Each primordium is smaller than the diameter of a period that ends a sentence and is transplanted into a membrane that envelops the intestines and other digestive organs.

The transplanted cells were retrieved from the pig embryos early in their development, which is believed to render them "invisible" to the primates' immune system or induce a state of tolerance, either of which eliminates the need for immune suppression.

The researchers determined by multiple methods that the transplanted cells became established within the primates. And as the cells matured, they began to release pig insulin. "We found using every method that the cells engraft long-term and, thus, are not rejected by the animals' immune systems," Hammerman says. "It's been more than two years since our first transplant was carried out. That particular primate doesn't produce any primate insulin, but has pig insulin circulating in its bloodstream that has reduced by more than 50 percent the amount of injected insulin the animal needs, compared to levels before the transplant. The animals have never received immune suppression drugs."

Two of the macaques remain healthy. One, however, became anemic about six weeks post-transplant and was euthanized a month later after developing acute respiratory distress. The researchers could not find a link between this animal's illness and the pancreatic cell transplants.

The two remaining m
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Contact: Caroline Arbanas
arbanasc@wustl.edu
314-286-0109
Washington University in St. Louis
Source:Eurekalert

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