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[IPp] Stem cell treatment reverses diabetes: Argentine researchers

Posted: 22 January 2005 0432 hrs 

Stem cell treatment reverses diabetes: Argentine researchers 

 BUENOS AIRES : Millions of diabetics worldwide could put insulin injections
behind them if a stem cell treatment that Argentine physicians have successfully
used to reverse the disease confirms promising early results.

 The treatment, in which stem cells are injected into the pancreas, does not
involve risks of rejection, requires no prolonged inpatient treatment, and any
physician trained in and skilled with catheterization could perform it,
cardiologist Roberto Fernandez Vina told AFP.

gofriends(){newwin =
 Fernandez Vina leads the team that successfully carried out the first implant
of its kind January 3 on an insulin-dependent diabetic patient at San Nicolas
Hospital in the town of San Nicolas, north of Buenos Aires.

 The 42-year-old man, who had been insulin dependent since the age of 25, so far
has seen his glucose levels return to normal with no need for medication.

 The treatment involves extracting stem cells from the ilium, a bone in the hip,
and after manipulating them in the laboratory, injecting them into the pancreas
using a special catheter introduced through the femoral artery, which provides a
direct route to the "tail" of the pancreas.

 "It is an unprecedented technique, because it uses stem cells and not embryonic
ones, as had been done previously, and because of the path of injection, since
we chose a direct artery and not a peripheral vein," Fernandez Vina said.

 Unlike embryonic cells, stem cells have the ability to act as "copiers" of the
information they find in the organ into which they are deposited.

 People with diabetes have a shortage in the pancreas of so-called beta cells,
which have the task of producing insulin, with which the body regulates glucose
levels in the blood.

 Introducing "copy-making" cells in the pancreas generates beta cell production,
thereby increasing the production of insulin needed to balance the patient's
glucose level.

 Fernandez Vina noted that advantages of stem cell therapy in the pancreas are
that it can be repeated in the same patient and that the catheterization
technique does not require particularly extensive training.

 The method "opens up an enormous area of research" into other diseases, such as
Hepatitis C, Fernandez Vina added.

 "In any case, we have to be prudent and act cautiously," the specialist said,
noting that "every patient is different" and the pancreas may have varying
responses to this treatment.

 The next phase of research, being funded by a private foundation at a cost of
1,600 US dollars per treatment, will commence February 1.

 In phase two, 35 patients between the ages of 22 and 65 will be selected from
among 500 volunteers who have already stepped up and offered to undergo the

 "We are going to include diabetics whose beta cells no longer produce insulin
(who are insulin-dependent), as well as those who need medication to boost their
production" of beta cells, the researcher explained.

 "We want it to be a treatment that delivers results fast," added Fernandez
Vina, at the helm of a group of researchers at the public Universidad Nacional
de Rosario. He is also an immunologist with the MD Anderson Cancer Center in
Houston, Texas.

 The team's research in this case actually began in Argentina in 2003 with
testing of the use of stem cells in the heart to repair heart attack-damaged

 The US-based Cardiovascular Research Foundation has voiced interest in the
research protocol, the Argentine research team leader added. - AFP

 Rachel - "I would rather live my life as if there is a God, and die to find out
there isn't, than live my life as if there isn't, and die to find out there is."

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