Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Hopeful News, hot off the presses

Press Release from the AMA--REALLY hopeful news for those with Type 1 Diabetes, and their families. This study's going to appear in tomorrow's Journal of the American Medical Association:

Newswise — Patients with type 1 diabetes who received islet transplantation from a single donor pancreas were insulin independent one year later, according to a study in the February 16 issue of JAMA, a theme issue on medical applications of biotechnology.

Type 1 diabetes remains a therapeutic challenge, according to background information in the article. The success rate of islet (cells that produce insulin to control blood sugar levels) transplants has recently been increased markedly by transplanting a higher number of islets prepared from 2 to 4 donor pancreases. However, for islet transplants to become a widespread clinical reality, additional advances are still needed. In particular, restoration of insulin independence must be achieved with a single donor, as is also the case with pancreas transplants, to reduce the risks and costs and increase the availability of islet transplantation.

Bernhard J. Hering, M.D., of the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, and colleagues conducted a study to assess the effectiveness and safety of islet transplantation from a single pancreas. The trial was conducted from July 2001 to August 2003 and enrolled eight women with type 1 diabetes.

During the trial there were no serious, unexpected, or procedure- or immunosuppression-related adverse events. All eight recipients achieved insulin independence and freedom from hypoglycemia. Five remained insulin-independent for longer than 1 year. {more}

The problem, of course, is that there are nowhere near enough cadaverous pancreata to provide islets for the millions who live with Type 1 Diabetes. Also, these patients need to take immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of their lives, drugs which can cause cancers. It's not a solution for our kids. HOWEVER, therein lies the promise of embryonic stem cell research--a potentially unlimited supply of islets with no chance of organ rejection. The current political climate, of course, makes stem cell research very difficult. As many of you know, Bush's approved "stem cell lines" are all contaminated with mouse tissue--making rejection of any islets grown from those lines a near certainty. The lines may be useful for research, but not in transplantation.

However, the above study proves that islet cell transplantation is effective in achieving insulin independence, and reduces the number of pancreata needed for a successful islet cell transplant, which will help more of the truly desperate folks, I guess, those in line for kidney transplants and the like... but someday, SOMEDAY, SOMEDAY it'll be our kids who benefit.