Pigs being raised in germ-free pens in Western Wisconsin may be one of our greatest hopes for an actual cure for diabetes. The University of Minnesota has teamed up with Mayo Clinic to find a cure for diabetes during this decade. They believe that these pigs may hold great promise.
Except for the last 20 years or so, insulin from pigs was routinely used in humans to help control blood glucose. Synthetic, lab-produced insulin has now replaced porcine insulin. But one of the reasons pig insulin was used is because there are remarkable genetic similarities between humans and pigs.
The goal of the project, called Spring Point Project, is to raise pigs that are housed in special pens, which are isolated from human germs. These pigs would then provide an unlimited supply of pancreatic islet cells that could be transplanted into humans. One of the biggest obstacles to islet transplants is the short supply of available human islet cells.
Transplanted porcine islet cells have already been shown to cure diabetes in animals for well over a year. They believe the same results, but enhanced, could be reproduced in humans. The germ-free environment of the pigs housing would minimize the risk of transmitting any detrimental agents to humans who might receive the islet cells.
The researchers say that injection of the pig islet cells in humans could begin within a year but it would probably takes several more years of substantive results before the FDA would grant approval of the porcine islets as an actual treatment for diabetes.
If this research eventually proved safe and effective as a cure for diabetes, but would require retransplantation of new islet cells every five years or so, would you agree to the procedure? Post your comments below.
Learn more about islet cell transplants
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