New Zealand Pig Islet Trial One Step Closer to Reality

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Eight New Zealanders with type 1 diabetes are hoping to receive pig islet transplantations by the end of the year, now that the company Living Cell Technologies (LCT) has surmounted the first of three regulatory hurdles in pursuit of permission for a twelve-month trial in New Zealand.

This comes upon the heels of a similar year-long Phase I/IIA clinical trial that is primed to begin in Moscow, Russia. The islet cells (called “DiabeCells” by LCT) will be encapsulated in alginate, a gelatinous seaweed extract that allows the islets to release insulin in response to blood glucose, but prevents the body’s antibodies from reaching the islets. As a result, toxic immuno-suppressants theoretically won’t be necessary. LCT will be using islet cells from newborn piglets of a special bio-certified pig herd that was isolated on Auckland Island for 200 years.

In recent news, it was found that a patient who had been injected with similar cells in 1996 was still getting a little insulin from the cells ten years afterward.

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