Scientists exploring a potential cure for diabetes have shown that transplanting insulin-producing cells from embryonic pigs into diabetic monkeys can dramatically lower blood sugar levels, though not quite to normal levels.
Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis transplanted clusters of embryonic pig cells destined to become insulin-producing islet cells into three diabetic rhesus macaques. The macaques “adopted” the pig cells as their own, without the need for powerful immune suppression drugs to prevent rejection, the researchers report in the current issue of Organogenesis.
As the immature pig cells developed, they began to produce insulin, and the macaques’ glucose tolerance improved.
“While we did not cure diabetes, we converted hard-to-control, or brittle, diabetes to a more manageable form of the disease using the embryonic cell transplants,” says senior author Marc Hammerman, MD, the Chromalloy Professor of Renal Diseases in Medicine. “More work is necessary, but this approach presents an intriguing alternative for treating diabetes in humans. Pig cells could overcome the shortage of human islets available for transplant from deceased donors and the need for transplant patients to take anti-rejection drugs for life.”
The featured article was originally published at Washington University Newsroom: Pig-to-primate transplants show promise for diabetes.