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Science / Medicine : New Operation for Diabetes

Compiled from Times staff and wire reports

An experimental transplant operation designed to free diabetics from insulin injections has produced the most promising results since the technique was developed, researchers reported last week.

The procedure enabled five of nine patients to significantly reduce their need for daily insulin injections, including one 16-year-old Louisville, Ky., girl who has remained completely independent of injections for more than six months, the researchers reported.

“I’m completely excited,” said Dr. Camillo Ricordi of the University of Pittsburgh, who published the results with his colleagues in the British medical journal Lancet. “It’s opening up a whole new perspective on cellular transplants.”

The procedure involves removing so-called islet cells from the pancreas of a donor, then purifying them and injecting them into a patient. The cells, which are the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, then lodge in the liver and begin cranking out insulin.

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The procedure has shown promise for years in animal studies and some early attempts on humans. But the new study has produced the most favorable results to date, experts said.


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