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[IP] Transplant organs without rejection
Transplant organs without rejection
Human trials expected in months
By Robert Bazell
NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT
NEW YORK, June 1 - There's been a breakthrough in organ
transplantation that could have astounding implications for all sorts
of diseases - even a potential cure for diabetes. "This type of
approach," said Dr. Allan Kirk of the Naval Medical Research Center in
Bethesda, Md., "could revolutionize transplant medicine."
SO FAR, the research has been done in monkeys only - but it
has been so successful that human trials will start within months.
Until now the problem with transplantation has been that the
body's immune system tries to reject transplanted tissue so vigorously
that some transplants are not possible - and others require a lifetime
of harsh anti-rejection drugs
In the new research, scientists were able to use a genetically
engineered drug to retrain the immune system, altering white blood
cells so that the body accepts the transplanted tissue without
At the University of Miami, Dr. Norma Kenyon and Dr. Camillio
Ricordi, for the first time, successfully transplanted cells called
islets that manufacture insulin. Monkeys with a condition like
diabetes now can survive and stay healthy without insulin shots.
Dr. Norma Kenyon
"This appears to be a significant advance," said Kenyon,
"one step closer to what may eventually lead to a cure for type-1
That's amazing news for the almost one million Americans like
Jane Adams, of Washington, DC, who suffer form the most serious form
of diabetes, type-1. To keep their blood sugar at normal levels most
diabetics must constantly monitor their blood and inject insulin
several times a day. But even with insulin, diabetes can get out of
control bringing loss of eyesight and limbs, heart attacks and death.
"Theres an everyday burden of dealing with your diabetes," said
Adams. "But there's also an emotional and kind of frightening burden
about what lies ahead in the future."
Using the new transplantation technology, other scientists have
transplanted kidneys in monkeys - without using anti-rejection drugs.
If it works in humans, transplants will become much simpler.
"People could have their organ failure cured," said Kirk, "and
go about their normal daily life without being tethered by the side
effects of immunosuppressive medication."
That dream could become a reality as early as this summer, when
human trials begin of the new kidney transplant technique and the new
attempt at curing diabetes.
Robert Bazell is a science correspondent for NBC News.
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