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Ricordi, scientific director of the University of Miami Diabetes Research Institute, has experimented with implanting insulin-producing pancreatic islet cells in the abdomens of monkeys rather than in their livers. The procedure attempts to avoid the problems of auto-immune reactions when donor cells are implanted into type 1 recipients.
In type 1 diabetes, which is considered an auto-immune disease, the body wrongly attacks pancreatic islet cells, which produce insulin, eventually destroying them. Transplantation of donor cells is an established procedure, but the subsequent need for recipients to take drugs to suppress an auto-immune response to the foreign cells is expensive, burdensome, life-long, and often opens the door to other diseases.
Ricordi has had some success with his approach in monkeys, and the partnership with Hackensack University Medical Center will assist him as he moves into experimenting with human test subjects. Ricordi will recruit four subjects, none of whom is responding to current treatments, and begin working with them next year.
Another problem is that the number of transplant donors, which can even include cadavers, is too small to meet the needs of every potential transplant recipient. So the partnership will also look into ways to create a reliable supply of islet cells.
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