Two recent research papers from the Emory Transplant Center describe research on pancreatic islet transplantation, an experimental procedure that could help people with type I diabetes live without daily insulin injections.
Islet transplantation may offer people with type I diabetes the ability to produce their own insulin again
As with other types of transplantation, the challenge with islet transplantation is to avoid rejection of the donated organ and to balance that goal against side effects from the drugs needed to control the immune system. These papers illustrate how that balancing act is especially complex.
In the last decade, transplant specialists developed a method for islet transplantation named the â€œEdmonton protocolâ€ after pioneers at the University of Alberta. While the emergence of this method was a major step forward, there are limitations:
Posted on December 9, 2010
University of Georgia researchers recently reported on their work to create pigs with induced pluripotent stem cells. This type of cell, first developed about five years ago, has the ability to turn into any other kind of cell in the body.
An Emory transplant team, working with the UGA group, hopes to use this technology to develop pig islet cells as an alternative to human islets to treat patients with Type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes usually occurs early in life and affects more than one million Americans who are unable to manufacture their own insulin because their pancreatic islets do not function.
Emory islet transplant team
The Emory Transplant Center has conducted clinical trials since 2003 transplanting human pancreatic islet cells into patients with Type I diabetes. Some of these patients have been able to give up insulin injections, either temporarily or permanently. Other sources of islets are needed for transplant though because of the large number of potential patients and because each transplant typically requires islets from several pancreases.
To create pigs using pluripotent stem cells, the UGA team injected new genes into pig bone marrow cells to reprogram the cells into functioning like embryonic stem cells. The resulting pluripotent cells were inserted into blastocysts (developing embryos), and the embryos were implanted into surrogate mothers. The resulting pigs had cells from the stem cell lines as well as the embryo donor in multiple tissue types.
The pluripotent stem cell process could allow researchers to make genetic changes to dampen or potentially eliminate the rejection of the pig islets by the human immune system.
Posted on May 13, 2010