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Home Home Wellness News Cell Transplant Helps Difficult Type 1 Diabetes
Cell Transplant Helps Difficult Type 1 Diabetes
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However, the procedure isn't without its own risks, and it's still considered investigational in the United States. Because it's a transplant of foreign materials into the body, people need to take immune-suppressing medication for the rest of their lives. These medications are known to increase the risk of infections and cancer. But in people with diabetes, one of the biggest concerns is the effect these medications can have on the kidneys, according to Bridges.

"This is something that's debated among diabetologists. Why would we want to impose a treatment that carries the burden of immunosuppression when insulin works well for most people? But given what we know about the physical and emotional burden of hypoglycemia unawareness, we thought patients would feel it was a good trade-off," Bridges said.

The study, which was a phase 3 clinical trial, included 48 people with type 1 diabetes who had hypoglycemia unawareness. They were between 26 and 65 years old, with an average age of 48. The average duration of their diabetes was 28 years. All received transplants of islet cells.

The participants also completed four quality-of-life surveys before and after the transplant.

Almost 90 percent of the participants stopped having severe hypoglycemic events for at least a year. They also were able to achieve normal blood sugar levels, some without the need for insulin injections.

Both groups -- those who were free from insulin and those who still needed it -- reported similar improvements in quality of life.

"There were drastic improvements in quality of life. Their fear of hypoglycemia goes away," said Bridges. And even people with just a few functioning islet cells were still able to regain their awareness of hypoglycemia so they could prevent those severe episodes.

Dr. Andrew Stewart, director of the Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolic Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, reviewed the findings.

"This is an interesting study that shows that these considerable and very realistic worries and fears are lessened over the course of the first year following pancreatic islet transplantation," he said.

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