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In the future, type 1 diabetes patients may be able to avoid the need for daily insulin shots through transplants of insulin-producing stem cells. ?We have done 38 islet cell transplant procedures since 1999,? said Dr. Jonathan Lakey of the University of Alberta in Edmonton. ?And 87% of those patients are free of insulin therapy a year after transplantation.? (The islets of Langerhans are the insulin-making parts of the pancreas.)
The news is especially exciting because there is an acute shortage of transplantable pancreases worldwide. Stem cell therapy also reduces or eliminates transplant rejections. More work is necessary, however, including satisfying the concerns of those who object to using stem cells on ethical grounds.