Scientists led by Dr. Bernhard Hering have reported the arrival of a batch of special pigs to the bio-secure center; a new $6.2 million, 21,000-square-foot Islet Resource Facility in Minneapolis, U.S.
The pigs form the major part of a project- the Spring Point Project, a non- profit organization for the expedition of pig islets in the treatment of diabetes.
This project will focus on the testing of the reversal of diabetes in humans, by transplanting islets from the 'medical grade' pigs, into the pancreas of human patients with Diabetes Type 1.
The present move follows the clinical trials carried out successfully by Dr. Hering whereby he totally reversed diabetes in monkeys, by transplanting healthy islets from pigs, into their pancreas. Its report was published in Nature Medicine last February. Islet transplants between humans, followed this.
Says Herring, 'Human islet cell transplants have reversed diabetes in 90 percent of our recipients. However, the shortage of human donor organs greatly limits the applicability of islet transplants. Pig islets will solve this demand issue and are at the forefront of a far-reaching cure for patients with diabetes.'
Pancreatic islet cells from the approximately 100 pathogen-free pigs at the facility will be used for transplantation into diabetes patients in clinical trials.
Says Henk-Jan Schuurman, chief executive officer of the Spring Point Project,"The facility has to meet certain requirements. Animals are housed under conditions without infectious agents. It is pathogen-free, with no viruses or bacteria. They are kept behind a barrier, and there is no direct contact with the outside world. There is filtered air, sterilized water and decontaminated food."
There is great excitement behind the project as seen by the comments of W. Michael Gretschel, volunteer president of the Diabetes Research & Wellness Foundation: "We will provide the world new hope for transplants that will relieve patients from the day-to-day burdens of insulin administration and threats of high and low blood sugars that cause deadly complications—from blindness to heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure."
The project is bound to raise hopes for diabetics round the world.