By: Patrick Totty
Sponsor a pig and you can help a unique collaboration between Spring PointProject and the University of Minnesota to begin transplanting insulin-producingislet cells from pigs to humans within the next two years.
Minneapolis-based Spring Point Project is a non-profit organization that raises"biosecure" pigs under ultra-clean conditions. By 2010, a clinical trialconducted the University's Diabetes Institute for Immunology and Transplantationwill take islet cells from the pigs and transplant them to human beings.
The hope is that the cells will begin producing insulin, essentially curing type1 people with diabetes by restoring their bodies' ability to produce thehormone.
Until then, Spring Point Project must spend $50 per day to shelter each pig – acost of $36,500 per pig over the next two years. That's why the organization isasking for donations under its Sponsor a Pig Program. Donors can arrange to giveat levels ranging from $50 (supports a pig for one day) to $18,000 (supports apig for one year).
Dr. Henk-Jan Schuurman, Spring Point Project's CEO, explains, "The animals must be housed in a highly specialized environment maintained by professionals who are trained in animal health care. The pigs eat special food, drink purified water and breathe filtered air."
The organization's decision to raise "medical-grade" pigs came in the wake of adiscovery by Dr. Bernhard Hering, scientific director of the Diabetes Institutefor Immunology & Transplantation at the University of Minnesota, whodocumented a medical breakthrough in the journal Nature Medicine inMarch 2006.
Dr. Hering's key finding was that the transplantation of isletcells, harvested from the pancreas of a pig, yields a long-term cure fordiabetes in monkeys. The next step was to see if the same effect could takeplace in human subjects.
For more information on Spring Point Project, go to its website,www.springpointproject.org. For information on sponsoring a pig, see www.springpointproject.org/images/spt0026-PledgeForm.pdf.