“THE world’s first xenotransplantation treatment – where animal cells are transplanted into humans – has been approved for sale in Russia.
The treatment, developed by Living Cell Technologies in New Zealand, is for type 1 diabetes. It consists of insulin-producing pig cells coated in seaweed, says Bob Elliott of LCT.
Type 1 diabetes occurs when insulin-producing cells in the pancreas are destroyed. Insulin is vital in controlling blood glucose levels, so people who lack the cells need daily insulin injections.
However, injecting the wrong amount of insulin can cause blood glucose levels to swing dangerously, causing fainting, and cardiovascular and nervous effects. These can reduce a person’s life span, Elliott says.
LCT’s treatment involves surgically implanting the replacement cells into the pancreas. The “seaweed” coating is alginate, which prevents the immune system from attacking the foreign cells.
In Russian trials, eight people with type 1 diabetes received the treatment in June 2007, while continuing to have daily injections of insulin. After a year, six showed improved blood glucose control and were able to lower their daily dose of insulin. Two of them stopped injections entirely for eight months. One person left the trial and another showed no improvement, which LCT believes was due to problems inserting the cells into the pancreas.”
Read more at New Scientist (Thanks Shaun H)