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From Calgary, Canada:

Recently, researchers at the University of Alberta in Canada announced a so-called "cure" for diabetes. That is, 8 adults from age 19-53 were injected with donated islet cells and were no longer insulin dependent, some for up to 14 months. There seems to be much media attention in Canada on this subject and also in the U.S. (CNN ran a story on it).

Given the need for actual donors to provide the pancreases needed to extract the islet cells (2 pancreases needed per patient), is it feasible that if no long term affects are determined for this procedure, enough donated pancreas can be found to "cure" a large portion of the population?

As a follow up question, the alternative method seems to be stem cell research in which the cells are reproduced in laboratories thereby eliminating the need for donors. How is this progressing and do you feel this is the most promising research in to a cure?


Pancreas donors are certainly in insufficient numbers if this research holds up and is sustainable. This is true for all types of transplants whether whole or partial organ transplant. This country and most other countries would need to have a concentrated effort to recruit donors and a population shift in attitudes if transplantation is to succeed in any large numbers. The research from Alberta is promising but still in its infancy -- and needs to be replicated with other centers using the same protocols.

Stem cell research is also extremely promising but also suffers from legal and philosophical barriers to obtaining stem cells from fetuses. There are ethical questions: Is this ethical and from where do the fetuses come? Who must grant such permission? Government? Mothers of the aborted fetuses? Fathers? And still much needed research needs to continue to see how well such stem cells respond, "take" etc.

Encouraging research is continuing and needs to be supported. People with diabetes and people with most other chronic diseases need to become more active and alert their legislators how they feel about such issues. Most remain very passive and so government does not understand the sense of frustration and urgency that many feel.


Additional comments from Jeff Hitchcock, The Editor:

For more information, see Alberta Foundation Reports on Successful Islet Transplants.


Original posting 28 Jun 2000
Posted to Research: Cure


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