Xenotransplantation as a therapy for type 1 diabetes

By | April 23, 2012

…Type 1 diabetes is caused by autoimmune destruction of the insulin-producing beta cells. Over 250,000 patients suffer from type 1 diabetes in Germany who are treated with daily insulin injections to maintain glucose metabolism. Replacement of the destroyed beta cells by transplantation of either a complete pancreas organ or isolated human beta cells is the only effective way to cure the disease. However, due to the shortage of organ donors this method can be offered to only few patients. As an alternative approach researchers are exploring xenotransplantation, i.e. transplantation of the organ from another species. The most obvious barrier in xenotransplantation is the strong immune rejection against the transplant. A research team led by LMU’s Professor Eckhard Wolf and Professor Jochen Seissler has now generated a genetically modified strain of pigs whose beta-cells restores glucose homeostasis and inhibit human-anti-pig immune reaction. So far, the efficacy of this approach has been demonstrated only in an experimental mouse model. “Whether the strategy will work in humans remains to be demonstrated,” says Professor Wolf. “Nevertheless, we consider the approach as very promising and plan to test it further in other settings.”

Type 1 diabetes is caused by an autoimmune reaction which ultimately leads to the destruction of the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, and usually becomes manifest during adolescence. Thereafter, insulin must be administered by regular insulin injections. Since insulin therapy cannot reproduce the complex pattern of physiologically controlled insulin secretion, patients are at risk of hypoglycemia and many patients develop severe vascular complications such as myocardial infarction or stroke.

Transplantation of a healthy pancreas or pancreatic beta cells that synthesize insulin may represent the best treatment option. Unfortunately, the availability of donor organs falls far short of requirements. Over the course of the last several years, fewer than 200 pancreas transplantations have been carried out. “Pigs represent a possible alternative source, because glucose metabolism in this species is very similar to that in human beings,” Professor Seissler points out. …

via Xenotransplantation as a therapy for type 1 diabetes – LMU Munich.

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