Health Alert: Islet transplant - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Health Alert: Islet transplant

(Charlotte-NBC) April 25, 2005 - Andrea Anderson is a transplant recipient, "It's still hard to believe I'm off insulin, when I do tests with my meter, I mean I'm still doing that, and getting a level of 100 or 80 or 120, it's amazing to me after I've just eaten, you know, maybe a bowl of spaghetti."

For anyone with diabetes, what Anderson is describing is simply astounding. Dr. Paul Gores is a transplant surgeon, "It was apparent pretty much within 24 hours that this was gonna work."

Gores says that was after Annie's third pancreatic islet cell transplant, "We waited two weeks, and we measured her insulin secretion, and the islets, the secretion was beautiful. It was better than mine, I'm sure."

Each of Annie's transplants started inside a lab with a pancreas from an organ donor. Dr. Craig Halberstadt says for 14 hours, the transplant team separated out minute islet cells, "A thimbleful of cells that we could transplant back into the patient."

Dr. Gores injected them into Annie's liver. Now they make insulin just like they would inside someone who isn't diabetic, "They can sense glucose, and they secrete it when the glucose starts to rise, and when the glucose starts to drop, they stop."

Annie must now take life-long medications that carry risk and her body could still reject the cells, or they could stop working, "I don't know how long I'll be insulin free. I'm grateful for every day that I am."

For Annie, each day free of bags of insulin, needles and meters, is a day she can scoop up her son and take him for ice cream, "Normally I'd be having to lug a bunch of stuff with me, and hands-free, I got to carry him on my shoulders, and it's just very freeing and very nice to not be worrying all the time."

The islet cell transplant was performed at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, one of only a few medical centers in the world to offer this experimental procedure. The CMC team will soon perform the transplant on two other type-one diabetics.

The transplant has been under development for more than 25 years and is still considered a treatment rather than a cure and doctors stress it is not a treatment for all diabetics because of the risks and the limited number of donated organs. At some point they say this research could lead to treatments for the large number of type two diabetics.

Posted 10:44am by BrettWitt

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