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American hospital tries new technique for islet cell transplantation

Doctors from Hackensack University Medical in New Jersey, USA, are the first to try a new type islet-transplant procedure on humans. If successful, it could yield the cure diabetics have long waited for, according to a recent article from NorthJersey.com and as reported by Diabetes Newshound.

The procedure is currently being tested in Florida on monkeys. Unlike other islet transplants, these islets will be loaded onto a disc and implanted in the abdomen, not the liver. The researchers say its crucial to separate the islets from the pancreas. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks and kills insulin-producing islets in the pancreas.

The goal is to get the islets to function properly without the help or protection of immunosuppressant drugs throughout the patient’s life. The hospital hopes to enroll four humans for the study, which it hopes to begin in early 2012. The ideal patients for the study are those who aren’t responding well to other treatments.

If the procedure is successful, researchers also need to find a way to get enough islets to help all people with diabetes. That’s because there are not currently nearly enough islets available for transplant. A separate research team in Miami is working on that stage of the endeavor.

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