[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 March, 2005, 13:39 GMT
Transplant cures man of diabetes
Richard Lane is now free of daily insulin injections
A 61-year-old man has become the first person in the UK to be cured of type 1 diabetes thanks to a groundbreaking cell transplant technique.

After receiving insulin-making cells from the pancreases of dead donors, Richard Lane of Bromley, Kent, no longer needs insulin injections.

The King's College Hospital team said the breakthrough was hugely exciting for people with type 1 diabetes.

But the technique is not perfect. Many patients still require top-up insulin.

It is almost like being a totally different person
Richard Lane
Transplant recipient

Mr Lane, who has had diabetes for over 30 years, had his first islet transplant in September, followed by a second transplant a month later and the third at the end of January.

He told the Guardian newspaper: "I haven't felt better in myself for 30 years. I have to pinch myself to ensure I am not dreaming."

Mr Lane said he used to suffer attacks of low blood sugar which could lead to unconsciousness.

"My wife used to dread me going out of the front door in case there was a call from the ambulance service. I am now doing half an hour's brisk walk every day, and I have lost a stone-and-a-half in six months," he said.

"It is almost like being a totally different person."

He now has to take drugs to stop his body rejecting the transplanted cells.

Two other UK patients who have been treated with the procedure still need small doses of insulin.

The implications for the future are enormous
Lead researcher at King's Professor Stephanie Amiel

Canadian researchers were the first to demonstrate that people with type 1 diabetes could remain free of insulin injections after the treatment was complete.

In diabetes, blood sugar is too high because the body cannot use it properly.

This is because the hormone insulin which enables the body to control blood sugar levels is either not produced by islet cells in the pancreas or does not work properly.

For the transplant, healthy islet cells are taken from donor pancreases and injected into the patient's liver.

Once there, they develop their own blood supply and begin to produce insulin.

Short supply

Professor Stephanie Amiel, who leads the diabetes team at King's College Hospital, said: "The implications for the future are enormous.

We hope it will become more widely available in the future
Jo Brodie of Diabetes UK

"Eventually this could mean the end of insulin dependence for all type 1 diabetes sufferers."

But she said there was a shortage of donor pancreases from which to extract islet cells, which means they could not treat everyone with type 1 diabetes.

In the UK, 250,000 people have type 1 diabetes, also known as insulin-dependent diabetes. The condition usually appears before the age of 40.

Japanese researchers recently said they successfully transplanted islet cells from a living donor.

Scientists have also been looking at ways to make more of the cells required using stem cells.

Jo Brodie of Diabetes UK said: "The success of islet transplants is a major breakthrough in improving the lives of people with diabetes.

"Diabetes UK is now funding the work which we hope will turn this breakthrough into a cure for all people with the condition.

"The transplant work is moving forward all the time and we hope it will become more widely available in the future."

Annwen Jones, chief executive of Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, which is also funding research into islet cell transplants, said: "Great improvements have been made since the first procedure of this type in 2001 and we are delighted that we now have the expertise to achieve insulin independence in the UK."

How the breakthrough happened

Q&A: Diabetes transplant
09 Mar 05 |  Health


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific