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Wounded Soldier Who Received Historic Cell Transplant Gets Standing Ovation at Diabetes Research Institute Benefit
Date:2/24/2010

Bee Gee Barry Gibb and wife, Linda, announce American citizenship

HOLLYWOOD, Fla., Feb. 24 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Three months ago, U.S. Senior Airman Tre F. Porfirio was critically wounded after being struck from behind by three high velocity bullets while serving in Afghanistan. On February 13, Porfirio made an extraordinary trip from Washington, D.C., to Miami to appear before an awestruck crowd of 600 at the Love and Hope Ball benefiting the Diabetes Research Institute (DRI) -- the very organization that helped save him from a life with diabetes.  The gala's theme, "Honoring America," was certainly most appropriate given the presence of a true war hero and the patriotic announcement of two of the DRI's most notable supporters.  (View video of interviews and event footage.)

(Photo:  http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20100224/DC60476)

"I almost died -- twice from loss of blood -- and once from the problems with my pancreas," said the 21-year-old Airman, whose entire abdominal cavity needed to be restructured.  "I have a child on the way.  That is all I could think about [when I was shot].  I thought I was done."

Porfirio's injuries occurred on November 21 in a remote area of Afghanistan.  He was operated on twice in field hospitals and then air lifted to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he came under the care of Dr. Craig D. Shriver, chief of general surgery.  Porfirio's pancreas was damaged beyond repair, but removal of the organ would cause the most severe form of diabetes.

Walter Reed doctors then contacted the Diabetes Research Institute's scientific director, Dr. Camillo Ricordi, who immediately agreed to help.  The organ was removed and shipped from Washington, D.C., to Miami, where members of the DRI team spent six hours isolating the insulin-producing islet cells from the Airman's pancreas.

Dr. Ricordi, a pioneer in the diabetes field, is world renowned for developing the method to isolate islets from the pancreas.  The islets were flown back, and Dr. Ricordi assisted Walter Reed surgeons via the Internet in successfully infusing the isolated cells into Porfirio's liver on Thanksgiving Day.    

"It makes me feel good that while we are fighting to find a cure for a disease that affects 240 million worldwide, we can actually help one person at a time when the occasion presents itself," said Dr. Ricordi.

"There's no other patient in the world who has had their entire pancreas removed for trauma, survived, and had the pancreas islet cells put back in the liver and have them function 100 percent perfectly.  Tre is not on any insulin.  His sugars are normal.  He really is a one-of-a-kind case," stated Dr. Shriver.

At the Love and Hope Ball, Drs. Ricordi and Shriver were recognized for their efforts alongside Porfirio in front of an audience of DRI supporters, whose fundraising efforts over the past 36 years helped save this soldier from a life of diabetes.

Also apropos of this year's theme, Love and Hope International Chairmen Linda and Barry Gibb announced their new American citizenship, something the music legend dreamed of when he was 17 years old.

"The Love and Hope Ball has had many different themes -- all to raise money for the DRI.  Tonight we give tribute to our country and our fighting men and women who allow us to live in the land of the free and the home of the brave," Barry Gibb said.  "The Diabetes Research Institute has come so far and is close to the defining moment when a cure is found.  We salute the DRI and we salute our country, the United States of America."

"Tre is the hero of the evening," Dr. Ricordi added.  "He risked his life in the war against terrorism, and it's a miracle he is alive."

The Diabetes Research Institute at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine is a world leader in cure-focused research.  The DRI is now building upon these achievements by bridging cell-based therapies with emerging technologies to restore insulin production. For the millions of families already affected by diabetes, the Diabetes Research Institute is the best hope for a cure.  Visit DiabetesResearch.org or call 800-321-3437 for more information.

SOURCE Diabetes Research Institute Foundation

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SOURCE Diabetes Research Institute Foundation
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