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Duke Researchers Claim Baboon May Lead To Cure For Diabetes

Posted June 15, 2001

— A cure for Type-1 diabetes is one step closer to reality at Duke University. Researchers are hoping that a baboon may provide the answer they are looking for.

Last year, doctors transplanted insulin-producing cells from a pig's pancreas into a diabetic baboon. On Friday, they announced that the baboon has been making its own insulin for nine months and has not needed any injections. It is a big milestone for the project.

"One of the questions when I first developed the technology was, 'how long would the encapsulated cells last?' and I'd say I didn't have the answers at the time," says researcher Emmanuel Opara. "Now, I can confidently say that, at least, we can be sure that the cells would last up to a year or more because now we are into our 13th month since the transplant."

The experimental transplant could, one day, end the daily routine of insulin injections for more than one million Americans with Type-1 diabetes.

"The thought is, by using the baboon as a model, it would be a nice bridge to eventually doing human trials, which are already being investigated at this point and should be starting in the near future," says researcher William Kendall. "I think it will work. It seems to be working at this point.

"We're pleased with the progress, and we're hoping to continue to make progress," he says.

Five more baboons are in various stages of the study at Duke and appear to be doing well.


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