Transplants

Pancreas transplants have received considerable attention. This difficult procedure is most often done in conjunction with a necessary kidney transplant. Following the transplant, the patient receives powerful immunosuppression drugs to prevent rejection, the process by which the body destroys foreign materials -- such as the new kidney and pancreas.

Doctors are now also transplanting beta cells. Some approaches involve injecting beta cells so that they lodge in the liver. Other researchers have attempted to encase beta cells in a porous tube or bubble to protect them from rejection. The goal is to design a tube or bubble that does not allow white blood cells to enter and destroy the beta cells, but does allow insulin produced by the beta cells to pass out.

In other ongoing experiments, researchers are attempting to alter the code on the outside of beta cells so that the immune system will not recognize them as foreign material. If this work is successful, immunosuppression drugs will no longer be necessary when transplanting beta cells from one person to another.

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