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Studies test new approaches to islet transplantation
Date:5/1/2008

Researchers from 11 medical centers in the United States, Canada, Sweden, and Norway have begun testing new approaches to transplanting clusters of insulin-producing islets in adults with difficult-to-control type 1 diabetes. The clinical studies, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), will determine whether changes to current methods of islet transplantation lead to improved, long-lasting control of blood glucose with fewer side effects.

In islet transplantation, clusters of islets are extracted from a donor pancreas and infused into the recipients liver. In a successful transplant, the islets become embedded in the liver and begin producing insulin.

A major goal of the NIH research program in type 1 diabetes is to develop therapies that replace the insulin-producing cells destroyed by the autoimmune process, said NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D. These studies, which build on advances in immunology and transplantation research, may open the door to more widespread use of islet transplantation for patients with severe type 1 diabetes.

About 5 percent to 10 percent of the nearly 21 million people with diabetes have type 1, formerly known as juvenile onset diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, a persons own immune cells attack and destroy pancreatic beta cells, which produce the hormone insulin needed for survival. Beta cells, along with several other types of cells that work together to balance blood glucose, reside in islets, also known as islets of Langerhans, in the pancreas. Three or more insulin injections a day or treatment with an insulin pump are often needed to maintain blood glucose control, but most people with type 1 diabetes still develop complications, including damage to the heart and blood vessels, eyes, nerves, and kidneys. Despite steady improvements in managing the disease, type 1 diabetes cuts lives short by about 15 years, with early deaths due mainly to heart attac
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Contact: Joan Chamberlain
niddkmedia@mail.nih.gov
301-496-3583
NIH/National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Source:Eurekalert

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