Miami, FL (February 2, 2004) — Luca Inverardi, M.D., research professor of medicine, microbiology and immunology and co-director of the Cell Transplant Center at the Diabetes Research Institute at the UM School of Medicine, is just one of seven researchers nationwide to receive funding from a new research endeavor at the American Diabetes Association. The association’s research foundation has started the new Islet Cell Replacement Initiative for people with type 1 diabetes. The research awards from the new program are supporting investigators who are developing basic science, clinical and translational research focusing on islet cell replacement in type 1 diabetes.
Right now islet cell transplantation is considered the most promising method for a diabetes cure. During the procedure islet cells are separated from a donor pancreas, and infused into a diabetic patient’s liver, where they begin to produce insulin. But a main stumbling block to the treatment, has been a shortage of donor islets for transplantation, and the need for anti-rejection drugs.
The $1 million project will capitalize on Inverardi’s extensive work with animal islet cell transplant models, and on the expertise in developmental biology of another DRI faculty member, Dr. Helena Edlund, The DRI team will look at whether fetal stem or progenitor cells, which are contained in the pancreas, can be coaxed into becoming insulin-producing cells suitable for human islet cell transplantation. Ultimately, the research aim will be to define an unlimited source of insulin-producing cells that can be used for islet cell transplantation.
“Success in these studies might contribute to solving the current problem of scarce availability of islets from cadaveric donors,” said Inverardi. “Until a more ample supply of these cells are found, we will never know for sure how far islet cell transplantation can go as a possible cure for type 1 diabetes.”
It’s estimated more than 17 million Americans have diabetes, more than one million of those have the type 1 form of the disease. In type 1 the body does not produce insulin, and daily injections are needed. In the more common type 2 diabetes, or adult-onset, the body produces insulin but doesn’t use it properly. The possible life-long health complications of both types of the disease are enormous.
Jeanne Antol Krull