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Islet Cell Transplants Aid Type 1 Diabetics
Date:5/16/2008

Study participants lived insulin-free for at least a year or two,,,,

FRIDAY, May 16 (HealthDay News) -- Transplanted islet cells help people with type 1 diabetes live insulin-free for at least a year or two, and appear to provide longer-term improved metabolic control even after people have to begin using insulin again, researchers report.

Using continuous glucose monitoring systems, researchers from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine found that diabetics who received islet cell transplants had fewer episodes of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and spent more time with normal blood sugar than did people with diabetes who hadn't undergone a transplant.

"Islet cell transplantation can be a good option. Patients can regain hypoglycemia unawareness and improve metabolic control," said the study's lead author, Dr. Lisa Gorn, a third-year endocrinology fellow at the medical school.

However, Gorn pointed out that because islet cell transplantation still requires lifelong immunosuppressant medications, the procedure is reserved for those with difficult to control diabetes and people who have severe, recurrent episodes of hypoglycemia. She said newer immune-suppressing medications are currently being tested in clinical trials, and the hope is that they'll have fewer side effects.

Islet cells -- also called beta cells -- are cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, a hormone necessary for the body to metabolize glucose, or blood sugar. In type 1 diabetes, the rarer form of the disease, antibodies in the body mistakenly attack the islet cells and destroy them. People with type 1 diabetes don't produce insulin on their own, and must take repeated insulin injections daily, or use an insulin pump to replace the missing insulin.

Islet cell transplantation requires a donor pancreas, and then the cells are purified and surgically transplanted into the liver where they begin making insulin.
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