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December 5, 1999

Research: Cure

Question from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA:

My daughter is 5 and was diagnosed with Type 1 two months ago. I have read about islet cell transplantation, but nowhere I have seen anyone mention the possibility of using the child's own islet cells (removed during the honeymoon period). This would (presumably) solve the rejection problem. What do you think?

Answer:

This would solve the rejection problem, but would not stop destruction of the “removed” islets, once you put them back in your daughter. This is because the autoimmune disease that attacked the islets in the first place would still be there. This problem was shown when transplanting pancreas from identical twins. Nevertheless, we are fully aware that if we can treat the underlying disease (e.g., inducing tolerance or re-educating the immune system not to attack the islets), the native islets may very well be able to survive, and in that case you may not need to remove them, but just let them recover and may be even regenerate.

CR