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[IP] WSJ Article - copied from Healthcare advisory board

Medical centers worldwide are testing the safety and efficacy of
transplanting pancreatic islet cells into diabetic patients two years after
the bbreakthroughb technique was first performed on a handful of patients
Canada. According to the Wall Street Journal, roughly 80 patients with severe
type 1 diabetes have so far received the transplantsb70% of whom are now
insulin-independent, making the technique the bmost promising developmentb
in diabetes treatment in decades. But the transplantba two-session
procedure that usually results in immediate insulin-independencebdoes carry
new risks and side-effects. For example, islet cell recipients must take
anti-rejection drugs for life, suppressing their immune systems and leaving
them open to infection or cancer. And some transplants may lose effect over
time, requiring some patients to resume insulin shots. Two- and three-year
trials being conducted at 10 medical centers worldwidebincluding the
University of Minnesota and the University of Miamibwill determine whether
the procedure can be put into widespread use, but the cost may limit its
universal applicability, says the director of the University of Miamibs
Diabetes Research Institute. Islet cell transplants would run $150,000 to
$175,000, and insurance does not yet cover the experimental technique. Also
limiting the procedurebs availability is a shortage of organs. Only 500
pancreases are available each year for transplants, and patients usually
require cells from two pancreases; researchers hope islets from stem cells,
bioengineered cells, pig islets or other sources may eventually be used.
Still, researchers say that if the current trials go well, a dozen centers
could be performing 20 to 30 transplants annually within the next few years
(Chase, 4/10).
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