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Pancreatic cell transplant helps diabetics

September 13, 2004|From Reuters

Just under 60% of diabetes patients who have received an experimental transplant of pancreatic cells are able to live without insulin injections a year later, Canadian and U.S. doctors have reported.

Researchers at 12 medical centers in the United States and Canada reported on 86 patients with Type 1 diabetes in the first report of the Collaborative Islet Transplant Registry. The report, found on the Internet at, shows that 61% of patients who got the transplants no longer had to inject insulin six months later. This fell to 58% after a year.

"We now have much-needed information on the short-term results of islet transplantation," said Dr. Thomas Eggerman of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, one of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, which funded the project.

Type 1 diabetes affects an estimated 1 million people in the United States alone. It is caused when the body mistakenly destroys the cells in the pancreas, called islet cells, that produce insulin.

For the islet cell transplants, the insulin-producing cells are taken from the bodies of people who have died of other causes and infused through a major vein to the liver.

Between 1990 and 1999, only 8% of islet transplants worked well enough to render patients insulin-free for a year or more.

In 2000, Dr. James Shapiro at the University of Alberta in Canada pioneered a new technique that works better.

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