Monday, February 27, 2006

RED HERRING | Pig Cells Cure Monkey Diabetes

RED HERRING | Pig Cells Cure Monkey Diabetes

The only thing I wonder about is- even though they sat that the liver only has a tiny bit of virus and won't cause disease is that in fact going to bear out over time?

Pig Cells Cure Monkey Diabetes

Researchers use pig insulin-producing cells to cure monkeys of type 1 diabetes.
February 27, 2006

Scientists have successfully cured type 1 diabetes in macaque monkeys using cells for the pancreases of newly born pigs and a novel immunosuppressant drug, suggesting a pig-cell cure for the human disease might be just around the corner.

The monkeys with the transplanted insulin-producing pancreatic cells, called islet cells, were able to produce insulin for the rest of their lives. The research was published online Sunday in the journal Nature Medicine.

The findings are important in a number of ways. Human, rather than pig, islet cell transplantation has already been shown to reverse type 1 diabetes in people with the condition. But the problem is that the number of people in need of donor cells far outstrips their availability.

Each donated human pancreas can only produce enough cells for a maximum of one transplant, and only 3,000 to 4,000 organs become available each year. However, more than 1 million Americans have type 1 diabetes, which occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin.


So the growing evidence that pigs might be able to provide functioning donor islet cells for people holds much hope.

“The next steps are to prove porcine [pig] islet cells can be a source for human transplantation and to verify the safety of the transplant procedures,” said Dr. Rajotte, founder and director of the University of Alberta's Islet Transplantation Group.

“It's hoped within the next three to five years, we will begin testing neonatal porcine islet transplants in human patients,” he added.

The researchers found that neonatal pig cells transplants in monkeys that were given drugs to suppress their immune system were not successful because the monkeys’ T-cells destroyed them.

However, six out of seven monkeys that received the cells with a new drug were able to handle monthly glucose injections for the rest of their lives because the cells produced insulin in response to the sudden hike in their blood sugar.

Bristol-Myers Squibb researchers developed the new drug called Belatacept along with scientists at the Emory Transplant Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

The company announced a deal with Incheon Metropolitan City, South Korea-based Celltrion in June last year to manufacture several of its late stage experimental products, including Belatacept.

“The use of nonhuman primates was critical for testing cross-species viral transmission due to their close genetic link to humans,” said Kenneth Cardona, a scientist at the Emory Transplant Center and the Yerkes Research Center.

A major concern about using other species’ cells and organs in human transplants is that it might aid the evolution of new types of viruses in the human population (see Rising Risk of Epidemics Seen).

In this study, the researchers conducted postmortem studies of the monkeys’ livers, kidneys, spleens, and some lymph nodes to check for pig viruses. Although they found some evidence of viruses in the liver, the finding was deemed insignificant in terms of its potential to cause new infections.

“After extensive testing, there was no evidence of transmission of porcine endogenous retroviruses between the porcine cells and the transplant animals,” added Dr. Cardona.


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