Transplant May Help Diabetes Patients - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

4/21/03

Transplant May Help Diabetes Patients

It's not a cure for Diabetes, but some are saying it's as close as researchers have ever come to a cure, and they're really excited about this.

In the past year, researchers in Canada have transplanted insulin producing Islet cells into more than 100 patients with serious Diabetes. And now, interventional radiologists at the University of Alberta Hospital are looking closely at 26 of those patients in a critical followup, and they say so far, the results are remarkable.

"We've got results on 26 patients that have reached one year from their final transplant, and of those 26 patients, 21 of them are off insulin altogether. So, that's 81% completely off insulin," says Dr. Richard Owen, radiologist.

Clumps of these insulin producing cells, each about the size of a grain of sugar, are injected through a catheter into a branch of the liver's portal vein. It's done with a local anesthetic, so patients recover within 30 minutes and usually go home the next day.

Joan Husband volunteered for this transplant after her Diabetes got so bad that she could hardly walk and had to quit her job. And now, a year after the transplants...

"I can go for walks and not worry about having a hypoglycemic reaction when I'm out walking. I have tons of energy. And according to everybody around me, I look better. So things are going very, very well," says Joan Husband, transplant patient.

There are potential complications. The cells may block up the portal vein, or the body's immune system may reject them -- and bleeding after the procedure is sometimes a risk. But researchers say they are encouraged to see that transplanted Islet cells can live in the liver, and even normalize blood sugar in some patients.

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