August 20, 2008
Doctors Study Insulin-Cell Transplant
Doctors in Houston are testing a procedure that transfers pancreatic cells into arms or legs to provide insulin for patients who have lost their pancreas.
The work at Houston's Methodist Hospital builds on a small study in Sweden, the Houston Chronicle reports. A month ago, Wanda Prouty became the first person in the United States to undergo the procedure.
In addition to preventing diabetes in people who have had the pancreas removed because of disease or injury, doctors say it might be used to treat type 1 diabetes.
"We're very early in the process, but I'm confident this work is going to prove effective," said Dr. Craig Fischer, a Methodist surgeon who is leading the research. "It may sound wild to the layperson, but it's actually very logical."
To do the procedure, doctors remove the islets, the cells that produce insulin, from the pancreas and transplant them into an arm or leg.
Prouty had years of inflammation of the pancreas. Fischer said the cells transplanted to her arm appear to be producing insulin, although doctors are still months away from calling the transplant a success.