Science and Medicine

TREATMENT TESTED FOR DIABETES Team Hopes to Reduce Disease’s Ill Effects

By Rosanne Spector


A
 potential treatment for juvenile-onset diabetes that could eliminate the need for insulin shots is under study at Stanford. “If the treatment works, it will spare patients not only from the inconvenience of insulin injections but also - and maybe more important - the harmful effects of sharp ups and downs in their blood sugar levels,” said Dr. Donald Dafoe, senior researcher on the project and director of Stanford’s Multi-Organ Transplant Center.

The treatment, which stems from research on rats, including a study led by surgical resident Dr. Gregg A. Adams, is based on implanting fetal pancreas tissue into the patient’s forearm. It would provide an internal, self-regulating insulin source, but patients would need lifelong treatment with immunosuppressive drugs to prevent them from rejecting the implanted tissue.

The researchers are testing the strategy first on diabetic kidney transplant patients who already take the immunosuppressants. Ultimately, all juvenile-onset diabetes patients may be eligible for the treatment, as long as fetal pancreas tissue is available.

Juvenile-onset diabetes results when damaged cells in the pancreas no longer can produce enough insulin to control the individual’s blood sugar level. The disease, also called type 1 diabetes, affects about a million people in the United States. The standard medical treatment includes insulin injections (usually about three a day), regular exercise and a low-sugar diet. ST

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SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 1996

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