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Sponsor a pig and you can help a unique collaboration between Spring Point Project and the University of Minnesota to begin transplanting insulin-producing islet cells from pigs to humans within the next two years.
Minneapolis-based Spring Point Project is a non-profit organization that raises "biosecure" pigs under ultra-clean conditions. By 2010, a clinical trial conducted the University's Diabetes Institute for Immunology and Transplantation will take islet cells from the pigs and transplant them to human beings.
The hope is that the cells will begin producing insulin, essentially curing type 1 people with diabetes by restoring their bodies' ability to produce the hormone.
Until then, Spring Point Project must spend $50 per day to shelter each pig - a cost of $36,500 per pig over the next two years. That's why the organization is asking for donations under its Sponsor a Pig Program. Donors can arrange to give at levels ranging from $50 (supports a pig for one day) to $18,000 (supports a pig for one year).
Dr. Henk-Jan Schuurman, Spring Point Project's CEO, explains, "The animals must be housed in a highly specialized environment maintained by professionals who are trained in animal health care. The pigs eat special food, drink purified water and breathe filtered air."
The organization's decision to raise "medical-grade" pigs came in the wake of a discovery by Dr. Bernhard Hering, scientific director of the Diabetes Institute for Immunology & Transplantation at the University of Minnesota, who documented a medical breakthrough in the journal Nature Medicine in March 2006.
Dr. Hering's key finding was that the transplantation of islet cells, harvested from the pancreas of a pig, yields a long-term cure for diabetes in monkeys. The next step was to see if the same effect could take place in human subjects.
For more information on Spring Point Project, go to its website, www.springpointproject.org. For information on sponsoring a pig, see www.springpointproject.org/images/spt0026-PledgeForm.pdf.
Diabetes Health is the essential resource for people living with diabetes- both newly diagnosed and experienced as well as the professionals who care for them. We provide balanced expert news and information on living healthfully with diabetes. Each issue includes cutting-edge editorial coverage of new products, research, treatment options, and meaningful lifestyle issues.