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

Because the islet cells come from a donor pancreas, transplant recipients must take immune-suppressing drugs to keep their bodies from rejecting the new cells.

The new study included 25 people with type 1 diabetes. Twelve had islet cell transplants and 13 acted as controls. All used continuous glucose monitoring systems, which constantly monitor blood glucose levels.

On average, Gorn said, the study participants were able to remain insulin-free for about a year and a half. Forty percent were still insulin-independent at two years, she said.

And whether or not the transplant volunteers were back on insulin or not, they had significantly fewer episodes of hypoglycemia than did the controls. Also, they spent more time with normal blood sugar levels than did the controls. Additionally, when they had to start using insulin again, they were using significantly less than they did prior to the transplant, the study found.

Hemoglobin A1C levels -- a reading of long-term glucose control -- were much improved after transplant. A normal A1C level is about 5 percent for someone without diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. The average for transplant recipients was 7.6 percent before the transplant and 5.5 percent after three months, according to the study.

"Compared to the group of controls, those who had the transplant had much less hypoglycemia and had more time in normoglycemia, whether or not they were back on insulin," said Gorn, who added that the researchers also found that "continuous glucose monitoring was useful and was a good indicator of [transplant] dysfunction."

Gorn was expected to present her findings Friday at the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists' annual meeting, in Orlando, Fla.

Dr. Joel Zonszein is director of the clinical diabetes center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. He said "the topic [of islet cell transplantation] is ve
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