More trials of pig cells to treat diabetics

BRONWYN TORRIE
Last updated 05:00 23/11/2012

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A revolutionary diabetes treatment involving pig cells being inserted into the pancreas is one step closer to being available in New Zealand.

Living Cell Technologies announced yesterday that its product Diabecell could be available to type-1 diabetics in five years, if approved by MedSafe.

"We remain on track to meet our goal of completing clinical trials of Diabecell by 2015 and having a product commercially available by 2016," Auckland-based chief executive Andrea Grant said.

Recruitment of 20 people to take part in the next phase of the clinical trial in Argentina began yesterday. The trial will test the refined dosage.

Insulin-producing islet cells are taken from rare Auckland Island pigs that are bred in a special centre near Inver cargill. The cells are encased in a substance to protect them from the immune system and implanted into a type-1 diabetic's pancreas.

It's hoped the treatment would replace insulin injections and stop seizures that can cause diabetics to pass out.

Human pancreatic islet cells can be transplanted into type-1 diabetics to achieve the same results, but there are few suitable donors and the patient must take immunosuppressive drugs, which can cause debilitating side effects.

The 14 people who took part in a 2009 trial at Auckland's Middlemore Hospital had all experienced improvements in their health, the company said earlier this year.

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- The Dominion Post

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