A New Zealand bio-tech company is trumpeting a major breakthrough after a diabetic given a trial transplant of pig cells was able to stop her insulin injections.
Auckland-based Living Cell Technologies (LCT) announced this week that one of two patients taking part in a Russian trial of the therapy "is potentially cured of diabetes".
"Remarkably, a month after the first dose one patient is currently not dependent on insulin," LCT medical director and therapy inventor Professor Bob Elliot said in a statement.
"While it is early days within this patient’s treatment protocol these results are very encouraging."
LCT, also based in Melbourne, hopes the latest results will clear the way for trials to start in New Zealand early next year.
The therapy involves transplanting more than a billion insulin-producing cells from the pancreases of piglets into the stomach of a type 1 diabetes patient.
The first patient, a 26-year-old man, was injected with his first dose in June without adverse effects.
Control of blood glucose levels has been maintained while his daily insulin requirement was gradually reduced by about 40 per cent over the past four months.
The second recipient, a 40-year-old woman, was implanted with her first dose of DiabeCell in September without adverse effects and control of blood glucose has been maintained with progressive reduction of daily insulin requirements.
At one month following the implant, she was weaned off insulin altogether. "These early stage results have exceeded our expectations," Prof Elliot said. "It increases the prospects of DiabeCell as an effective commercial product for diabetes," he said.
In the Moscow trial, each of six patients is scheduled to receive two transplants of the smallest dose, which is one-third of the maximum dose planned for the New Zealand study.
A 1996 trial in Auckland using an earlier version of the therapy was halted over concerns that humans could be infected with pig viruses.
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