Farwell to a Pioneer in Animal Islet Transplantation

| Oct 1, 1998

Dr. William L. Chick, a leading researcher in the fight against diabetes, died this past August at the age of 60.

Dr. Chick was diagnosed with diabetes at age 11. He spent nearly his whole life battling the disease, both within himself and in a laboratory. Chick, an early leader in islet transplantation, died just as his research is reaching the brink of reality.

Dr. Chick invented the method of transplanting animal islets into humans while at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Dr. Chick's method protects the transplanted animal islets with a plastic membrane. The membrane allows insulin to exit, but does not allow larger cells, which will cause the body to reject the islets, to enter.

In Chick's research trials, diabetic animals who received an islet transplant stayed healthy for months. The use of the plastic membrane for transplantation into humans is in the pre-clinical trial stage. Trials are being conducted at Biohybrid Technologies, a company Chick co-owned.

Even up to the end of his life, Chick worked to help others benefit from xenotransplantation. Though his diabetes complications had taken him to blindness, kidney transplantation and a heart attack, he worked in his lab tirelessly.

William Chick began his career at the Joslin Clinic in Boston after graduating from New York University Medical School in 1963. While at Joslin, he dreamed of a plastic pancreas implant. During the 1980s, he joined the University of Massachusetts Medical School, where he eventually headed their Diabetes-Endocrinology Research Center. In 1991 he and Jack Hayes started Biohybrid Technologies.

Chick's cell therapy research also helped those with hemophilia, Parkinson's disease and epilepsy.

Dr. Chick is survived by his wife and two daughters in Wellesley, Mass.

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Categories: Community, Diabetes, Insulin, Islet & Pancreas Transplant

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