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Pig cells still work in diabetic man after 10 yrs


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HONG KONG (Reuters Life!) - Cells from a pig transplanted into a diabetic man from New Zealand are still producing insulin nearly 10 years later, prompting a biotechnology company to plan research to see if others could benefit.

The case, profiled in a scientific journal issued on Friday, may pave the way for a cure for diabetes, said Bob Elliot, medical director of Australia's Living Cell Technologies (LCT).

The man, now 41, suffers from type 1 diabetes, when cells in the pancreas do not produce insulin -- a hormone needed to store or use sugar. This results in abnormally high sugar levels in the blood, or diabetes, which needs to be corrected with daily insulin injections.

The pig cells were injected into the man's abdomen in 1996, which helped reduce his insulin requirements by 34 percent for a year, researchers from the biotech firm wrote in a paper published in the latest issue of the journal Xenotransplantation.

The man insisted he still felt better in 2006 and convinced the company to examine him.

"A careful examination shows his diabetes control has been a lot better even 10 years after the transplant," Elliot told Reuters.

Tests, which became available only recently, showed that insulin detected in the man's blood were pig insulin, not human insulin, he added.

The company hopes to conduct small-scale clinical trials in Russia and New Zealand in coming months to inject more diabetes patients.

© 2007 Reuters Health.

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