The major problem with type 1 diabetes is that the body produces antibodies that attack the body’s healthy islet cells in the pancreas which produces insulin. This limits insulin production making the body the body unable to make use of glucose gotten from diet leading to high blood sugar. The patient then has to makes rely on insulin injections or pumps to survive.
Before now, several research works have being aimed at transplanting islet cells from deceased donors into the liver but this has not been ideal The liver can only take few islet cells and with risk of bleeding.
Recently, researchers at the University of Miami Diabetes Research Institute have tried another location – the omentum, a fatty membrane in the belly.
A 43 year old single mother with a 25 year history of type 1 diabetes has been off insulin for over a year following islet cell transplant in the omentum. Before the transplant, she was said to have been on about 33 units of insulin per day. No surgical complications were observed during the procedure.
The researchers said
“The cells began producing insulin faster than expected, and after one year she is doing well and doesn’t need insulin injections”.
“We’re exploring a way to optimize islet cell therapy to a larger population. This study gives us hope for a different transplant approach,”
Dr. David Baidal, assistant professor in the University of Miami Research Institute who led the study said. The research is the first step towards developing a mini organ called BioHub.
The BioHub would be like a home to the islet cells providing it with blood supply and nutrition, making it easier to remove in cases of complications. The researchers plan to test the use of omentum as a site in 5 new patients.
Baidal explained that
“Her quality of life was severely impacted. She had to move in with her parents. And, if she traveled, she had to travel with her father”.
This is indeed good news.
This is a step in the positive direction for about 422 million people worldwide living diabetes. It would also markedly save cost for insulin in the long term.
More information of this ground breaking research headed by Dr David A. Baidal can be seen in the New England Journal of Medicine.
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