There are several protocols for organ transplants to help cure diabetes currently under research. Type-1 diabetes is caused by the destruction of Beta islet cells in the pancreas which secretes insulin. People with Type-1 diabetes need to be on insulin treatment currently for the rest of their lives to control their disease.
Every year, several hundreds of Type-1 diabetics have whole organ pancreas transplants.
Averages of about 83% of these patients have no symptoms of diabetes a year after surgery and no longer need to be on insulin therapy. But there are not enough transplantable pancreases to meet the demand. The diabetics who do have this procedure are also trading off the need for insulin for the rest of their lives to needing very powerful immune suppressing drugs to keep their bodies from rejecting their new pancreas and they must continue these drugs for the rest of their lives. These drugs leave their bodies open to a host of other diseases because of their weakened immune system with these drugs. So many may wonder if this trade off is worth it.
The University of Pennsylvania is currently conducting clinical trials for a new surgery called Islet Cell Transplantation. With this new procedure, doctors are transplanting islet cells from a matching donor. But here also, patients must be on steroid immune suppressing drugs.
In Canada, a new protocol has been developed involving this same islet cell transplantation but is different in that they use a larger number of donor islet cells as well as a different therapy for immune suppressing. This is being called the Edmonton protocol and researchers have reported that seven out of seven patients who received this protocol no longer need insulin therapy and their blood glucose levels have been normal for a year after surgery. The Edmonton protocol is now being tested around the world at 10 different medical centers.
If this protocol proves to be successful there are still several problems to overcome before this can be a widely used cure for Type-1 diabetes. The main one is that donor tissue is not widely available. And second, these patients will also face a lifetime use of immune suppressing drugs.
There is currently research going on using controversial embryonic stem cells as well as stem cells taken from adults. But because of the ethical and political debate concerning embryonic stem cells this pathway to a cure is moving slowly. People who believe that life starts at conception strongly oppose embryonic stem cell research because the cells come from human embryos which are destroyed in the process. Embryonic stem cells have not matured into human cells and have the greatest potential to become any type of cells in the human body, including hair, skin, blood, toenails as well as Beta islet cells.
There are several protocols for organ transplants to help cure diabetes currently under research. These procedures are for people having Type-1 diabetes. Type-1 diabetes is caused by the destruction of Beta islet cells in the pancreas which secretes insulin. People with Type-1 diabetes need to be on insulin treatment currently for the rest of their lives to control their disease.
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