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Successful Islet Cell Transplant

A new study shows that islet cells (clusters of pancreatic cells that produce insulin) from living donors may be better for diabetes treatment. Comparing samples from living and deceased donors, the study shows that 94 percent of islet cells from living donors were viable for transplant, while only 42 percent can be used from deceased donors.

Lead study author Dr. Kwang-Won Kim said that islet cell transplantation is currently the only known cure for insulin-dependent diabetes, however “there are simply not enough deceased donors available to meet the demand for islet cells.” He added that sometimes they would require islet cells from two deceased donors to be able to get enough cells for the treatment of one patient.

Although it is said that living donors could provide more healthy islet cells (islet cells deteriorate quickly after brain death), this may come at a risk because those who donate islet cells may develop diabetes themselves. “Obviously, more research is needed to determine the risk to donors and ensure their safety, but if a low-risk donation strategy could be established, living donors could dramatically improve the supply of islet cells for transplant,” said Dr. Kim.

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