Improving the Odds in Treating Type I Diabetes

Synthetic antioxidants protect insulin-producing cells during transplants

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FRIDAY, July 26, 2002 (HealthDayNews) --Synthetic antioxidants improve the survival rate of insulin-producing islet cells used in transplants for Type I diabetics.

That's the conclusion of a study in the August issue of Diabetes.

The two antioxidants were developed by researchers at National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver. The study was done by University of Pittsburgh researchers.

"The antioxidant neutralizes the harmful free radicals generated when islet cells are isolated from the pancreas," says study author Jon Piganelli, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Diabetes Institute at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

"More of the islet cells survived in culture. And when we transplanted islet cells into diabetic, immunodeficient mice, it took fewer of the antioxidant-treated islet cells to normalize their blood sugar," Piganelli says in a prepared statement.

The study found the synthetic antioxidants cut islet cell death rates in half, from 60 percent to 30 percent, over a six-day period. The antioxidants also improved transplant results. Six mice that received large amounts of islet cells became healthy.

Smaller amounts of islet cells were transplanted into nine other diabetic mice. Half of those mice received untreated islet cells, and they remained diabetic. The other half of the mice received antioxidant-treated islet cells. They became healthy.

The finding could offer a way to improve the success of islet cell transplantation, a method first reported in 2000 and still undergoing clinical trials.

Islet cell transplantation may provide a promising treatment option for people with Type I diabetes. In that form of diabetes, the person's immune system mistakenly destroys islet cells. Those are cells in the pancreas that secrete insulin.

It takes at least two donors to supply enough islet cells for one successful transplant. Many of the islet cells suffer stress and die when removed from the pancreas. Highly reactive free-radical molecules contribute to the stress that leads to islet cell death. These synthetic antioxidants seem to neutralize those free radicals, the study authors say.

More information

For more on islet cell transplantation, visit the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

SOURCE: National Jewish Medical and Research Center news release, July 26, 2002

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