The European JDRF Center for Beta Cell Therapy in Diabetes reports in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA its results on cell transplantation in 22 patients with type 1 diabetes. These patients had a history of failing insulin production since several years making them dependent on insulin injections; their blood glucose levels had remained difficult to control leading to diverse complications including episodes of hypoglycemia with risk for coma. The Center’s study indicates the number of donor insulin-producing beta cells that need to be transplanted in order to restore the endogenous insulin production and stop the insulin injections, and to control blood sugar levels and avoid hypoglycemia. One year after transplantation, the injection-free recipients produce considerable amounts of insulin with a maximal capacity that represents one fourth of that in age-matched individuals without diabetes. These data form a basis for cell therapy in diabetes. They serve as reference for subsequent work that optimizes the combination of beta cell therapy and immune modulating drugs. The goal is to reach a long-term metabolic normalization with minimal side effects of the treatment. The biologic characteristics of the successful grafts are also used as quality control criteria in the Center’s projects on large scale laboratory generation of insulin-producing cells, for example from stem cells. The JDRF Center for Beta Cell Therapy in Diabetes is an international consortium of basic and clinical departments that is led by professor Daniel Pipeleers of Brussels Free University-VUB. The objective of the Center is to develop strategies for prevention and treatment of diabetes. Its program specifically focuses on the protection, replacement and regeneration of the insulin-producing beta cells (info on www.betacelltherapy.org). The Center is supported by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (New York- www.jdrf.org) and by the 6th Framework Program of the European Union.
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