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[IP] Radical Treatment for Diabetics Gets Green Light


Radical Treatment for Diabetics Gets Green Light
Treatment  uses intravenous transplants of insulin-producing pancreatic 
cells extracted from dead donors

A radical treatment for diabetes invented overseas that uses intravenous 
transplants of insulin-producing pancreatic cells extracted from dead donors 
is to be made available for the first time in Japan, maybe by the end of the 

A group of doctors, headed by Takashi Kenmochi of Sakura Hospital in Chiba 
Prefecture, has been studying the technique since 1996 and recently finished 
compiling a manual on the treatment.

Initially, the procedure will only be available for insulin-dependent 
diabetics, whose pancreas cannot secrete insulin--a hormone that controls 
the level of blood sugar--and have to inject themselves with insulin to 
compensate for the defect.

Insulin-dependent diabetics account for 4 percent to 6 percent of the 
nation's diabetics, estimated to total more than 6 million.

Pancreatic cells, also known as islets of Langerhans, are spherical cell 
clusters 0.1 millimeter to 0.3 millimeters in diameter. The pancreas of an 
average healthy adult contains about 1 million pancreatic cells.

The group is ready to start laying the groundwork for pancreatic transplants 
as soon as a donor pancreas becomes available. After the pancreas is 
harvested, the pancreatic cells will be extracted by a centrifugal separator 
and frozen, the group said.

When the team has built up a supply of the cells, it will begin treatment of 
the most serious diabetic cases. The cells will be injected into the portal 
vein, which carries blood from the digestive system and spleen to the liver. 
The cells, once they take root in the liver, will start secreting insulin.

One of the biggest advantages of the treatment is that, unlike transplanting 
an entire pancreas, the procedure does not require an operation, reducing 
the physical stress on a patient.

In addition, doctors need only obtain the consent of the donor's family to 
harvest the pancreas.

The manual prepared by the group lists the following criteria that must be 
met before the treatment can be offered:

-- The attending physician shall provide patients seeking the treatment and 
their families with adequate explanations about the procedure.

-- The separation and storage of pancreatic cells must be conducted at 
medical institutions that meet standards defined in the manual to ensure 
uniformity in treatment.

-- Medical personnel involved in the treatment shall take the utmost 
precautions to protect the privacy of donors and recipients.

The treatment has been in use overseas since the early 1990s on more than 
500 patients, a large proportion of whom were completely cured.

While the transplant of an entire pancreatic remains the most effective 
treatment, there is a short supply of donor organs and a large waiting list.

The group said that pancreatic cells will be extracted only from pancreases 
that are not suitable for transplants, so that the treatment will complement 
pancreatic transplants and not deplete an already sparse resource.

While acknowledging that only a few insulin-dependent diabetics will benefit 
from the treatment in the early years, the group said the treatment may 
become applicable to a regenerative medicine-based treatment in which 
insulin-producing cells are created from stem cells, which possess the 
ability to metamorphize themselves into differentiate types of cells



If you have diabetes, you have the same high risk of having a heart attack 
as someone who has already had their first attack, said Dr. Charles Clark, 
National Diabetes Education Program Chair. Even worse, your chances of 
dying from your first heart attack are the same as someone without diabetes 
who has had a second heart attack.

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