New treatment for diabetics undergoes trial

A treatment that could mean the end of daily insulin injections for diabetics is about to undergo trials in the UK.

By | January 29, 2001

A treatment that could mean the end of daily insulin injections for diabetics is about to undergo trials in the UK.

The treatment was developed in Canada by British-born surgeon James Shapiro and involves the transplantation of insulin-producing cell clusters into the livers of diabetics, so that they can create insulin themselves (N Engl J Med 2000, 343:230-238). The treatment has already be used on 15 Canadian patients, 13 of whom have been effectively 'cured' and have not needed to inject insulin for two years.

The charity Diabetes UK is funding seven centres at British hospitals to test the technique, at a cost of £300,000. Ten patients will receive the cell transplants and, if successful, the project will be expanded to treat up to 400 diabetics a year.

To prevent the cell transplant from being rejected these patients will be treated with a cocktail of drugs and, as the potential dangers of long-term immunosuppression are unknown, the treatment will only be considered suitable for patients with type-1 diabetes.

Moira Murphy, Director of research at Diabetes UK, said: "It's early days yet, but this may well lead to a cure for diabetes. If this research proves successful, it could revolutionise the lives of people who currently need to take insulin injections to stay alive".

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