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The bad news is that the patients must take immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of their lives, even as the functionality of the transplanted cells almost totally declines.
The good news is that even after the patients resume using insulin, their metabolic control tends to be better than before the transplants.
The study, by the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, used continuous glucose monitoring to track blood glucose levels in 25 patients, 12 of whom received islet cell transplants and 13 of whom acted as study controls.
After the transplants, patients stayed insulin-free for an average of 18 months. Forty percent of the study’s subjects were insulin-free at 24 months. Their A1c levels improved dramatically, from an average of 7.6% before transplantation to 5.5% within 90 days afterward.
When the effect of the transplants wore off, patients who had to return to taking insulin used significantly less than before and had considerably fewer episodes of hypoglycemia.
Researchers believe that immunosuppressants may have an effect on how long transplanted islet cells can function before losing their effectiveness. If so, the search is on for drugs with a much less drastic effect.
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