World's first recipient of insulin-producing cells from a living donor

A 27-year-old diabetic woman has become the world's first recipient of insulin-producing cells from a living donor.

The successful procedure conducted in Kyoto, Japan, by a team led by Shinichi Matsumoto, of the Kyoto University Hospital Transplantation Unit, and James Shapiro from the University of Edmonton, Canada, promises to free many diabetics from the burden of daily insulin injections.

Researchers claim the successful transplant of more than 400,000 so-called islet cells could be another option for treating people with insulin-dependent, or Type 1, diabetes. Within minutes of being transplanted the islets began producing insulin and the woman has not needed injections since the operation 22 days ago.

Presently the only way to manage Type 1 diabetes has been to replace the function of the islets with injections or replace islets destroyed by the disease. Islets are produced by the pancreas, so whole-pancreas transplants can restore insulin function.

The research is published in the online edition of the British journal The Lancet.

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