Pig Islets Still Producing Insulin After Ten Years In Diabetic Man

5112

Ten years ago, Michael Helyer, a New Zealand man with type 1 diabetes for eighteen years, received a transplant of pig islets. Much to the surprise of researchers, the pig cells are still putting out insulin at this late date. In fact, it was Mr. Helyer who alerted scientists at Living Cell Technologies (LCT) that the cells were still functioning.

Mr. Helyer received the alginate-encapsulated neonatal pig islet cell injection into his abdomen in 1996, at age 41. By twelve weeks after the transplant, the islets were going strong, reducing Mr. Helyers need for insulin by thirty percent. Porcine (pig) C-peptide was detectable in his urine for eleven months. Although his insulin had returned to pre-transplant levels by week 49, improvement in control continued: his A1c at fourteen months was 7.8%, as compared to a previous 9.3%. After that, however, formal testing ceased until Mr. Helyer brought himself to the attention of scientists at LCT nearly ten years later.

When Mr. Helyer was given a laparoscopy at that time, abundant nodules were still seen throughout his peritoneum (the membrane lining his abdominal cavity). Biopsies of the nodules showed capsules containing live cell clusters, and the retrieved capsules produced a little insulin when placed in high glucose concentrations in a test tube. When Mr. Helyer was given an oral glucose tolerance test, it produced a small rise in insulin that tested out as pig insulin.

Scientists at LCT are just now set to begin a trial in Russia of such transplants. (See the article Pig Islets Soon Tested in Humans in our April/May issue for more information on that enterprise.) According to LCT, more advanced versions of Mr. Helyer's pig cell therapy, using neonatal pig islets encapsulated in an alginate gel, could be available within two years if the planned human trials are successful.

Sources: Xenotransplantation
Reuters
The Australian.com

See our recent article on Pig Islet Transplantation, “Dr. Hering Pig Islet Pioneer”,and view the entire interview on Diabetes Health TV.

Comments

comments

This post authored by
Diabetes Health Medical Disclaimer
The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and information, contained on or available through this website is for general information purposes only. Opinions expressed here are the opinions of writers, contributors, and commentators, and are not necessarily those of Diabetes Health. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment because of something you have read on or accessed through this website.