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Study Gives Hope for Cure for Diabetes

Sep 19, 2006

Washington University researchers have developed a potential cure for Type 2 diabetes. The treatment has already cured rats, and it could eventually mean a second chance at health for the almost 200 million people worldwide with Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease.

The researchers took tissues from pigs – tissues that would have become pancreases – and implanted them into rats. The tissues helped control blood sugar, curing the rats’ diabetes for life.

The team has started trials in primates. Dr. Raffaello Cortesini says the work is exciting because it opens up a new area of research in the fight against diabetes. Cortesini is a transplant surgeon at Columbia University in New York, and editor in chief of the journal Transplant Immunology, where the new study appears.

The researchers, led by Sharon A. Rogers and Dr. Marc R. Hammerman, found that when they transplanted the embryonic pig pancreases, the rats didn’t need immune-suppressing drugs to keep their bodies from rejecting the pig organs.

The organs are taken from pig embryos just before they become pancreases – a stage known as primordia. Those tissues have "immune privilege," a type of diplomatic immunity that keeps them from being attacked when placed in a host organism.

The research is particularly exciting because it means that doctors could give patients new pancreases with few or no immune-suppressing drugs, Cortesini said.

The researchers used rats that lack a receptor for leptin, a hormone that helps control feeding. The rats become obese and males spontaneously develop diabetes. Females with the same mutation get diabetes after eating a high-fat diet.

The different responses mirror the development of diabetes in humans, Hammerman said.

"These rats have a family history" of diabetes, he said. The males might represent people of normal weight who get diabetes because of a genetic predisposition. The females are more like people who set off the genetic time
bomb with unhealthy diets and body weight.

When the researchers implanted the tissues in the diabetic rats, the males were cured completely. Their blood sugar returned to normal and their resistance to insulin also went away. The females were a tougher case. The transplants also worked for them, but their diabetes was cured only once they stopped eating fatty foods. The females remained slightly insulin-resistant, but their blood sugar was normal.

Using pigs also solves another problem with transplanted organs – the supply. Pig embryos could provide a nearly endless supply of primordial organs, Hammerman said.

journal Transplant Immunology Sept 2006


Transplant Cures Type 2 Diabetes Without Need For Immune Suppression Drugs: An approach proven to cure a rat model of type 1 or juvenile-onset diabetes also works in a rat model of type 2 or adult-onset diabetes, according to a new report from researchers at Washington University School of Medicine. Read and print the full news article at: