Permanent Cure for Diabetes without Taking Insulin – New Research

Permanent Cure for Diabetes without Taking Insulin - New Research


Permanent Cure for Diabetes Without Taking Insulin – New Research

New research appears promising in curing type 1 diabetes permanently through pancreatic islet transplantation.

Islets are clusters of cells in the pancreas that produce insulin that helps convert food into energy. Only 1-2% of the pancreas is composed of islet cells. In juvenile diabetes, the body's autoimmune response begins to destroy the cells of the pancreas.

Cure of diabetes by islet transplant (Edmonton Protocol)

In pancreatic islet transplantation, cells are taken from a donor pancreas and transferred to another person. Once implanted, the new islets begin to manufacture and release insulin. Researchers hope that islet transplantation will help people with type 1 diabetes live without daily insulin injections.

Islet Procedure Transplant:

In this procedure, researchers use specialized enzymes to remove the islets of the pancreas from a deceased donor. For a medium-sized person (70 kg), a typical transplant requires about 1 million islets, equal to two donor organs. Because the islets are extremely fragile, transplantation occurs immediately after removal.

The transplant itself is easy and takes less than an hour to complete. The surgeon uses ultrasound to guide the placement of a small plastic tube (catheter) through the upper abdomen and into the liver. The islets are then injected through the catheter into the liver. The patient will receive a local anesthetic. If a patient can not tolerate local anesthesia, the surgeon can use general anesthesia and transplant through a small incision.

It takes some time for the cells to adhere to new blood vessels and begin to release insulin. The doctor will order many tests to check blood glucose levels after transplantation, and insulin will be needed until control is achieved.

Benefits and risks of islet transplantation

Immunosuppressive or anti-rejection drugs are needed to maintain the functioning of the transplanted islets. Researchers are not fully aware of the long-term effects these drugs can have. In addition, while early results from the Edmonton Protocol are very encouraging, more research is needed to answer questions about how long the islets will survive and how often the transplant procedure will be successful.

However, transplanting islet cells has several advantages over transplantation of a pancreas. First, unlike pancreas transplantation, an islet transplant is a minor surgical procedure, is less expensive, and is probably safer. Second, scientists can learn to protect these cells from attack by the immune system.

Several methods are already under study. If successful, the person with an islet transplant would not need to take an immunosuppressant. Surgery would then be safer and more effective for many people with type 1 diabetes.

Research is also continuing on the transplantation of animal islets. Because the supply of human islets is severely limited, even the most successful human islet transplant method could only cure a small fraction of people with diabetes through existing sources of human islets from donor pancreas. If animal islets (eg pigs) could be made to work successfully, a cure would be available to all.

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Video credits to FightWithDiabetes YouTube channel

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Permanent Cure for Diabetes without Taking Insulin – New Research

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