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Cells from pigs to treat diabetes

7th March 2006

Scientists said that transplants of piglet cells could be used to treat diabetes patients within three years after successful experiments in monkeys.

Two new studies have shown that insulin-producing islet cells from the pancreases of newborn pigs can reverse type 1 diabetes in primates. The findings, from teams in Canada and the US, pave the way for human clinical trials.  Both are published in the journal Nature Medicine.    

 

 

 

 

 

If the trials are successful, millions of people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes could eventually benefit from treatment with piglet cells. There is currently a moratorium on xenotransplantation in Britain, though human experiments using pig islet cells have been conducted in Mexico.

Should the technique work in people, it would require them to take immunosuppressant drugs to minimise the possibility that the pig cells would be rejected. These have side effects, making transplants a less attractive option for patients whose diabetes is well controlled with insulin injections.    

In the longer term, human embryonic or adult stem cells might be used to grow islet cells for transplant, which could be cloned as a perfect genetic fit for patients or matched from large stem cell banks.

 

 

 

 

 

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