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Transplant Key to A Diabetes Cure, Just Days Away

Posted: Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Melbourne scientists claim they are just days from conducting a pioneering therapy that will effectively cure Type-1 diabetes. 

They are set to transplant insulin-producing cells from healthy donor tissue into a diabetic - removing the need for daily insulin injections.
Researchers at St Vincent's Institute say the procedure will help the patient produce insulin naturally. All they are waiting for is the right match between a donor and patient.

Institute director Prof Tom Kay said his team was on standby for the transplant, which could be "tomorrow or in a few weeks, but no longer than that". The news came as Australia's first dedicated Diabetes Centre for Clinical Research Excellence was launched in Melbourne this week.

The center will unite some of the state's best medical minds from St Vincent's and the University of Melbourne to tackle the nation's diabetes epidemic.

Prof Kay said Type-1 diabetes was a result of clusters of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas (called islets) being destroyed by immune mechanisms. But the team, with doctors from Sydney's Westmead, devised a way to stop T cells killing beta cells.

The team's approach involves over-expressing the right cells that stop cell death in the body to protect the transplanted beta cells and reduce the need for immunosuppression therapy.

Prof Kay said the transplant would initially work for only hyperglycemic diabetics (those who have trouble administering insulin), but would soon be available to all Type-1 patients.

The problem is there is not enough organ or tissue donation to offer this to everyone," he said.
"Patients need anti-rejection drugs for the transplant, so it is a trade-off between taking insulin and powerful anti-rejection drugs."
Prof Kay said that eventually there would be a plentiful supply of tissue through developments in stem cell medicine.
"And there are advances being made in using pig islets instead of human islets," he said.
"And one day there may not be a need for anti-rejection drugs."

Diabetes is a national health priority. More than a million Australians suffer the disease, which is a major cause of kidney disease, blindness, amputations, heart disease and strokes.

Source: Diabetes In Control

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