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Studies Confirm Type 1 Diabetes Transplants Work

But the reason may not be donor cells, but rather the immune-stimulating procedure used in the mice

THURSDAY, March 23 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers have confirmed that beta cell transplants can help cure type 1 diabetes in mice, but the success may have more to do with the adjuvant immune stimulants used in the procedure than the transplanted cells, according to three reports published in the March 24 issue of Science.

Anita S. Chong, Ph.D., from the University of Chicago, and two other groups from Harvard Medical School in Boston and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, attempted to replicate an earlier study in which donor spleen cells from male mice were transplanted into female diabetic mice. In that study, the insulin-secreting beta islets contained Y chromosomes, which led researchers to attribute the success to the donor cells.

Chong and the two other groups repeated the experiment, but used green fluorescent protein as a donor cell marker. Mice were treated with an adjuvant immune stimulator cocktail, a temporary transplant of intact islets, and an injection of donor spleen cells. This cured type 1 diabetes in about 30 percent of mice.

However, all three studies conclude that the beta cell islets that emerge do not come from the transplanted allogenic spleen cells. Rather, they suggest that the immune-stimulating adjuvant causes dormant beta cells or stem cells in the recipient to proliferate or differentiate into new beta cells. "Our studies confirm that autoimmune diabetes can be reversed," Chong's team concludes, "and that sufficient endogenous beta-cell mass can be restored to cure non-obese diabetic mice with the treatment protocol developed by Faustman and colleagues."

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