Pig Cells Used To Treat Diabetic Children; Studies Aim to Wean Patients Off All Drugs

New findings in clinical and basic science transplantation research will be presented at the XIX International Congress of The Transplantation Society August 25 30, among them results of a study that treated diabetic children with a combination of cells from a pigs pancreas and testes, and findings from three separate studies with a common goal in mind: to wean organ transplant patients off all anti-rejection drugs less than one year after transplantation, defying the tenet that such drugs are required for life.

The congress will take place at the Westin Diplomat Resort and Spa in Hollywood, Fla., located on the coast between Miami and Ft. Lauderdale. A staffed press room will be on site, and press briefings and media availabilities will be held each day.

As with other congresses, a familiar theme of discussion will be the worldwide organ donor shortage crisis in some countries with active transplant centers there are less than 10 or 20 cadaveric organ donors a year but at this congress, much of the discussion also will focus on the repercussions of the organ shortage. Thousands of patients continue to die each year awaiting transplantation, and in response, surgeons are beginning to rely more on living donors. In the United States alone, the numbers have increased more than 12 percent from 2000. But in some parts of the world, these numbers are part and parcel to a growing black market for organs from living donors. The practice of buying and selling organs is of particular concern to The Transplantation Society, the fields only international society, with more than 3,000 members from 65 countries, including those where such black markets exist. Among the many research studies to be presented at the congress and featured in the press room are:

  • A team from Mexico and Canada will report that some diabetic children were able to stop daily insulin injections after receiving infusions of pig cells, which were given without immunosuppression, while Italian researchers will report that transplanting human pancreatic islets cells can reduce the complications of diabetes 10 years after transplantation. Additional studies focusing on cell transplantation for the treatment of diabetes include those examining the promise of embryonic stem cells and ways that islets, which are particularly prone to rejection, can be engineered to protect against such an immune response.
  • Tolerance, the permanent acceptance of the transplanted graft without the need for drugs, is considered the Holy Grail of transplantation. Results will be presented from innovative trials in the United States and India that suggest the untenable goal is seemingly near. Using different novel methods, the researchers attempted to expedite the process and began weaning patients off immunosuppressive drugs just months after transplantation. Teams from the United States, France and Italy also will present results of their studies-- among the few of their kind -- with cohorts of patients off all immunosuppression.
  • Not since the worlds first hand transplant recipient demanded that surgeons remove the donor graft has the French team discussed the patients course of chronic rejection at an international scientific forum. The French researchers will present results of the patients pathology studies as well as a two-year update on the worlds first double-hand transplant. Teams from the United States, Italy and China will report on their clinical experience with hand transplantation as well.
  • Just when will organs from pigs be ready for transplantation into humans? Several reports have suggested some of the major immunological hurdles have been overcome, and a litter of cloned knock-out pigs born about six months ago could bring in the next generation of organ donors. Those active in the field of xenotransplantation, or cross-species transplantation, and cloning will provide an update on where the field stands. Researchers will also report on the promise of cellular xenotransplantation, including one study from the United Kingdom looking at neural stem cells from the developing brain of pigs to treat Parkinsons. Another study from Argentina suggests that pig liver cells might survive and function if transplanted in-utero, representing a potential way to treat liver diseases involving in-born metabolism errors.
  • According to one study, an organ preservation system being tested in the United States indicates marginal kidneys could indeed be safely transplanted, thus greatly expanding the number of organs available for transplantation. Another experimental device developed in Germany makes use of stem cells isolated from discarded livers to treat patients in acute liver failure until a donor liver can be found. Still, some European transplant centers have found organs from older donors even those over the age of 80 to be an effective way to expand the donor pool. Results of these and other studies will be reported.
  • Adult stem cells derived from bone marrow may be able to restore function to damaged heart tissue resulting from heart attack, according to a German study using a mouse model.
  • Increasingly, organ transplants are being performed in HIV-positive patients with end-stage organ failure. Centers in the United States and Europe will report their results, while one U.S. center will talk about progress developing a gene therapy approach for treating HIV.
  • What type of insurance a patient has may contribute to the success of the transplant, according to one study that looked at how various socio-economic factors contributed to transplant success. Results of this U.S. study will be presented.

Source: Transplantation Society