A Russian study has lent significant support to the suggestion that pig cell transplants may help reduce diabetics' dependence on insulin doses.
The researchers showed that transplanting the cells that produce insulin from newly born pigs could help cut diabetics' dependence on insulin injections.
The trials involving four diabetics in Moscow, Russia found that one of the patients was able to shelve her insulin injections for five months while reducing her dose to less than 20 per cent of previous levels when they resumed and another one reduced his dose by 40 per cent over six months.
However the treatment failed in a third patient and fourth has only just received her transplant.
"These remarkable clinical outcomes have exceeded our expectations," New Scientist quoted Bob Elliott of Living Cell Technologies in Auckland, New Zealand, as saying.
Refuting the claims that latent pig viruses in the cells might cause disease, Elliott said that they did not find pig viruses in patients who received a single injection of pig cells into their abdomens.
The cells were coated with an alginate gel, derived from seaweed, which allows nutrients to reach them and insulin to diffuse out.
The study was presented at a congress of the International Diabetes Federation in Wellington, New Zealand, on 31 March.