Pig Transplant Boosts Diabetes Hopes

      November 01, 2011 12:58

      Park Seong-hoe

      One in 10 adult Koreans is battling diabetes, and in many of cases their pancreas has lost the ability to secrete insulin, which controls the blood-sugar level. They either have to spend the rest of their lives receiving expensive injections of artificial insulin or receive transplants from pigs, which can secrete the same type of insulin found in humans.

      But pancreatic transplants were hampered by the human body's immune rejection response. Now, a team of Korean researchers has overcome this problem.

      The team, led by Prof. Park Seong-hoe of Seoul National University, said on Monday it transplanted a pig's pancreatic islet into a diabetic monkey and administered a new immune-regulating antibody it developed. As a result, the monkey's blood-sugar level was automatically controlled without any rejection, and the monkey has been healthy for the last six months.

      Typically, the success or failure of a transplant is determined after three months. The team stopped administering MD-3 four months after the transplant and found that the monkey's blood-sugar level remained in the 80-90 mg/dl level, which is normal, compared to 400-500 mg/dl before the transplant.

      An organ transplant recipient usually needs to take immunosuppressants for the rest of his or her life. But if this research is put to use, patients may no longer have to take immunosuppressants.

      This is the first time that no rejection response appeared after a cross-species organ transplant involving a large mammal even after the administration of immunosuppressants was stopped.

      As a result of taking immunosuppressants, patients' immunity to viruses or germs weakens drastically, but by overcoming this obstacle, the possibility for successful transplants of other organs from other species has increased.

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