Diabetic 'cured' by live transplant

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A 27-year-old woman has become the first patient in the world to be "cured" of diabetes by a transplant from a living donor.

A 27-year-old woman has become the first patient in the world to be "cured" of diabetes by a transplant from a living donor.

The woman, who developed diabetes when she was 15 years old, used to have daily insulin injections and frequent black-outs. But since receiving the transplant from her mother, she has been weaned off insulin and has been free of injections for two months.

Researchers from Japan, where the operation was carried out, said in an interview on the online version of the medical magazine The Lancet that it opened up a new frontier in the search for an effective treatment for diabetes.

A section of the mother's pancreas was removed and the insulin-producing islet cells were isolated, washed and infused into her daughter's liver, via a tube inserted into the portal vein.

Mother and daughter were reported to be doing well. The doctors said that the transplanted cells should function normally for up to five years. Even if the daughter requires insulin injections in the future, she should be free of the hypoglycaemic episodes (low blood sugar) that cause black-outs.

Successful transplants using islet cells from dead donors have been carried out since 2000. But the authors of the latest study said islet cells from living donors are more viable and more likely to function properly.

The main drawback of islet cell transplants is the shortage of donors and that patients have to take anti-rejection drugs for the rest of their lives, which lower immunities and can increase the risk of cancer.

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