News / Health

Interspecies Transplant Paves the Way for Diabetes Therapy

Jessica Berman
Researchers have come closer to the “Holy Grail” of treatment for people with type 1 diabetes. They have successfully transplanted insulin-producing islet cells from one species into another without the use of immunity-suppressing drugs. In the future this could provide an unlimited supply of tissue to treat people whose bodies cannot produce insulin.

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that delivers glucose - a form of sugar that the body uses for fuel - to cells for energy. Since the immune systems of people with type 1 diabetes attack and destroy the islet cells that produce insulin, many sufferers must inject themselves with insulin frequently, simply in order to survive.

It has long been a goal of scientists to transplant islets into humans - from other humans or pigs - without their bodies rejecting them. Human cadaver transplants are difficult, while animal-to-human transplants have proved nearly impossible.

Now, investigators at Northwestern University in Illinois have carried out a successful interspecies islet cell transplant, from rats into mice, without the lifelong use of anti-rejection medications, which carry significant side effects and risks, including cancer.

The study's lead author, Xunrong Luo, head of the Northwestern medical school's human islet cell transplantation program, said the transplanted rat cells produced insulin in the mice for more than 300 days.

“They survived essentially indefinitely. So they continued to produce insulin without the need of any immunosuppression and [the cells] just continued to maintain normal glucose levels in these diabetic mice,” she said.

The mice were prepared for transplant by taking white blood cells from a rat’s spleen, which is part of the immune system, and bathing them in chemicals that put the cells into a sleeping state known as programmed cell death.  

The altered cells were injected into mice. They entered the rodents’ spleen and liver but were soon mopped up [gathered, and destroyed ] by scavenger cells called macrophages, which recognized the sleeping rat cells as waste. In that process, fragments of the rat spleen cells wound up on the surface of the macrophages. This "trained" [conditioned] the mouse's immune-system T cells to accept islet cells, which researchers successfully transplanted seven days later.

“So we are pretty excited about that, because our next step is to see if we can translate this into [a] larger step, into larger animals,” she said.

Luo says her team now will try to transplant pig cells into monkeys. Her ultimate goal is to be able to tap into an unlimited supply of pig islet cells for transplants into people with type 1 diabetes.  

An article on interspecies transplants of insulin-producing islet cells appears in the journal Diabetes.

You May Like

Obama Pledges 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace Christmas precisely because of its non-religious glamor and commercial appeal More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid