Japanese scientists said on Tuesday they have reversed a patient’s diabetes by conducting the world’s first transplant of pancreatic cells from a living donor.
The patient, a 27-year-old woman who had suffered from insulin dependent diabetes since she was 15 years old, received the insulin-producing islet cells from her 56-year-old mother in January at Kyoto University.Until now, islet transplants have come from deceased donors.”From our successful transplantation of living-donor islets for the treatment of unstable diabetes, our recipient achieved and maintained insulin independence,” said Dr Shinichi Matsumoto of Kyoto University Hospital.”We believe that such transplantation of living-donor islets can be an additional option in the treatment of insulin-dependent diabetes.”Matsumoto and his team reported the achievement in a research letter published online by The Lancet medical journal.Neither woman suffered any complication and the recipient has not required insulin for 2 months.”Until now, islet transplant programs have used cadaveric donors. In Japan, cultural considerations severely restrict the use of cadaveric donors,” said Stephanie Amiel, of King’s College London, in a commentary on the achievement.A spokesman for the charity Diabetes UK described it as a “significant breakthrough.” But he questioned whether it would be a way forward for many people because of the risks involved.”There is the risk that damage could be done to the donor’s pancreas and leave them at risk of diabetes.”Islet transplantation from organs of dead donors was perfected in 2000. Islets are clusters of cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, which regulates blood sugar levels.Matsumoto said islets from living donors are better because they are more viable and more likely to function properly.Living donors could also overcome the shortage of bodies needed for the transplants. Two or more whole pancreases from dead donors are needed for an islet transplantation, compared to just half of a living pancreas.Type I diabetes is the most serious form of the disease with patients needing insulin injections. Their islets have been destroyed by their immune system. It accounts for 10-25 percent of cases.Type 2, or adult onset, is a more common, milder condition that can be treated with diet, exercise or drugs to stimulate the secretion of insulin.The recipient, who did not have autoimmune Type 1 diabetes, will still need long-term follow-up. The doctors believe the transplant could last for up to 5 years.Diabetes can cause kidney failure, strokes, heart attacks, blindness and nerve damage. (Source: Reuters Health, April 2005)