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Islet cell transplants for Type 1 Diabetes

A recent study reveals that islet cell transplantation may decrease the need of insulin injections for people with type 1 diabetes. //

This study conducted by James Shapiro, M.D., Ph.D., from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada and his team was published in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.

In this study, processed islet cells from dead donors were transplanted into 36 patients affected by this disease for around 27 years. There is a lack of islet cells, in the type 1 diabetes-affected people, that produce insulin in the pancreas.

The results revealed that 44% of the patients did not need insulin even after one year as the transplanted cells were functioning effectively while 28% needed very less amount of insulin. However, after 2 years, 11 of the 16 patients who showed best response were back on insulin.

The researchers believed that fine-tuning of their method should give better results. "Analyzed another way, 58 percent of subjects reached insulin independence at some point during the trial, but 76 percent had become insulin-dependent again by two years after transplantation," Jonathan Bromberg and Derek LeRoith of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York wrote in a Journal editorial.

"The study shows that more research is needed before this technique approaches the success rate of a regular pancreas transplant. When a patient receives the entire organ instead of processed cells, the success rate is 50 to 70 percent after five years, " Bromberg and LeRoith said.

Both techniques are unsafe, as patients need to take drugs to suppress the immune system and can have severe side effects.

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