NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 22, 2005

Japanese scientists have reversed diabetes in a 27-year-old woman with an injection of pancreatic islet cells -- which produce insulin -- donated by her 56-year-old mother, according to a report posted on the Lancet Web site.

  • The case marks the first time that islet cells were transplanted from a living donor, and the procedure used less than half the pancreas of the mother.
  • The procedure can require the use of as many as three pancreases from cadavers.
  • The woman who received the injection of pancreatic islet cells and her mother remain symptom-free after two months, according to Shinichi Matsumoto, lead author of the report.

Islet cells help balance blood sugar levels. About 80 percent of individuals who receive islet cell transplants remain insulin-free after one year, and about 50 percent remain insulin-free for as many as three years, according to James Shapiro of the University of Alberta, a coauthor of the article.

"This is a significant advance," Alan Cherrington, president of the American Diabetes Association, said, adding, "What it says is that if you can get really healthy undamaged islets, it doesn't take as many of them to cure diabetes as it would if they're subject to some trauma." However, diabetes experts said that scientists must repeat the transplant in other diabetes patients. They also raised concerns that individuals who donate half of their islet cells for the procedure could increase their risk for diabetes.

Source: Anita Manning, "Pancreatic cell transplant could lead to diabetes cure," USA Today, April 18, 2005; and Shinichi Matsumoto et al., "Insulin independence after living-donor distal pancreatectomy and islet allotransplantation," Lancet, April 19, 2005.

For USA Today text:


Browse more articles on Health Issues