A cure for diabetes using pancreatic cell transplants has moved closer to reality after research reveals a way of dealing with rejection by the immune system.
Researchers from Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in the United States made insulin-producing beta cells that contained genes from a virus that can evade detection by the immune system. These cells were then transplanted into diabetic mice.
The results showed that mice with the modified cells achieved normal insulin control for up to three months. In normal transplants the cells last for only a few days as they are destroyed by the immune system. This means that patients have to take strong immunosuppressant drugs to stop the body from destroying the new cells. However, these drugs weaken the immune system overall, leading to bad side-effects and meaning that pancreatic cell transplants have been limited to severe cases.
Researchers are now considering other viral genes that have a localised immunosuppressant effect to find the best combination to battle rejection. This research is in its very early stages.
Source: Diabetes Wellness News, February 2009