According to a recent story in the Palm Beach Post, a company called the Diabetes Research Institute (DRI) announced that the first patient in a clinical trial involving a new method of islet transplantation has become free of the requirement to inject insulin in record time. The patient, a 43-year-old woman, was first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 17. People with type 1 diabetes have had their islet cells in their pancreas destroyed by the body’s immune system.
Islet transplants have occurred before, usually placing them in the liver. Instead, the DRI procedure involved creating a scaffold consisting of the patient’s blood plasma and a substance called thrombin with the islets inserted within. The scaffold was then implanted on the patient’s omentum, tissue that surrounds the abdominal organs. Over time, the patient’s body absorbs the scaffold, leaving the islets behind to do their work of regulating blood glucose levels. The patient in the clinical trial has to take anti-rejection drugs, much like any other transplant patient, but that is a far less onerous regime than taking insulin and monitoring one’s blood glucose.
The clinical trial is a step toward the ultimate goal of creating an artificial pancreas, called a Biohub, which would constitute a cure for type 1 diabetes. If and when the device becomes available in a clinical setting, the biotechnology industry will have consigned type 1 diabetes, with all of the attended complications that include blindness, amputations, and premature death, as a chronic disease to the ash heap of history.
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