City of Hope researchers have underscored their leadership in the push for new type 1 diabetes treatments through pancreatic islet cell research, taking their work to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The paper was published in a diabetes-themed issue April 15.
John S. Kaddis, support scientist in the Department of Information Sciences and lead author of the paper, also discussed the promise of islet cell research at a related JAMA press briefing at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on April 14.
|John Kaddis (Photo by Jann Ingmire / JAMA)|
Experts estimate that 3 million Americans have type 1 diabetes, and more than 15,000 children are diagnosed with the disease each year. In patients with type 1 diabetes, the immune system destroys certain islet cells called beta cells, which produce insulin. Islet cell transplantation is an investigational treatment in which scientists take islet cells from a donated pancreas, purify and process them and then transplant them into patients with type 1 diabetes to replace the beta cell function. Researchers hope that islet transplantation will help people with type 1 diabetes live without daily injections of insulin.
“The primary objective of islet-based research is to one day cure diabetes,” said Kaddis. “Except for one trial case in type 2 diabetes, islet transplantation has been used exclusively for a subset of individuals with type 1 diabetes mellitus and has been shown to improve glucose control and, in some cases, to lead to insulin independence, at least short term.”
Islet cell transplantation has significantly improved patients’ quality of life and appears to protect against long-term diabetes complications such as nerve damage, vision loss and cardiovascular disease, researchers said. But more remains to be done. In JAMA, Kaddis cited obstacles that islet cell researchers must overcome to develop islet cell transplantation into a standard therapy for type 1 diabetes, including issues with supply and cost of human islets.
“Islet cells can be difficult and expensive to isolate from the pancreas of the donor, and a consistent supply of high-quality islets are needed for the many basic science research and clinical transplantation projects around the country,” said Joyce Niland, Ph.D., the Edward and Estelle Alexander Chair in Information Sciences and senior author of the paper. “We need to encourage more organ donations to have a consistent supply of islet cells for both treatment and research.”
|Joyce Niland is senior author of an islet cell report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. (Photo by Markie Ramirez)|
Niland directs the national coordinating center for the Islet Cell Resource Center Consortium, started in 2001 as the largest global cooperative to date to provide islet cells for research and transplantation, while also working to improve the science and technology of harvesting and preparing cells. The consortium is critical to advancing islet cell research worldwide.
“As the coordinating center for this effort, we developed a computer program to automate and efficiently coordinate the complex process of distributing islet cells to researchers according to need, priority and time constraints,” said Niland. “Islet cell transplantation has demonstrated value that should be further developed with continued research, and it is imperative to understand islet biology to advance the cure and prevention of type 1 diabetes.”
The research team also included James Cravens, M.P.H., Barbara Olack and Janice Sowinski, M.S., of the Department of Information Sciences, and Juan L. Contreras, M.D., from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.