Treatment that ends insulin jabs lined up
A REVOLUTIONARY treatment for diabetes which promises to end the need for patients to inject themselves with insulin could be available in Edinburgh within the year.
The treatment involves the removal of insulin-producing cells from the pancreas of a donor being injected into a patient's liver.
It is thought the new treatment would be beneficial to people with the most severe form of diabetes, Type 1.
Surgeons in the Capital are looking for funding to staff a unit 24 hours a day where the "islet" cells from the pancreas could be harvested from donor organs for transplantation.
John Casey, a consultant transplant surgeon at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, said: "The complex thing is the laboratory preparation of the islet cells."
If the money was in place, we are talking about introducing this in the next year.
"There's no doubt that it can happen quickly if the unit is staffed and funded. It's certainly something we can do."
Diabetics are unable to break down blood sugar as their body cannot produce enough of the hormone insulin.
Those who have Type 1 diabetes are unable to produce insulin at all and must inject the hormone between two and four times a day.
There are approximately 4300 people with Type 1 diabetes in the Lothians and almost 26,800 across Scotland.
The cell transplant treatment would be ideal for those who have Type 1 diabetes and have great difficulty in controlling their blood sugar levels.
If blood sugar levels get too low, it can trigger a life threatening condition known as hypoglycaemia which can lead to diabetics falling into a coma.
Four successful transplants have also been carried out by doctors in England.
Worldwide, around 400 patients have received cell transplants and 80 per cent of those no longer needed insulin within a year of the operation. However, patients do have to continue to take drugs to stop the body from rejecting the transplant.
Mr Casey would not say how much money the transplant unit would require before the treatment could be offered to patients but he did say that each procedure cost in the region of 5000.
Arnold Eighteen, a member of the Edinburgh Voluntary Group of Diabetes UK , said:
"This offers tremendous hope for the future and could make a radical difference to people which is very, very exciting."
The development will be discussed in greater detail at the group's annual seminar of the at the city's MacDonald Holyrood Hotel on Saturday.
Workshops on controlling diabetes with diet, blood glucose monitoring and information about hypoglycaemia will also be discussed.
• Places are still available for the seminar. Tickets cost 10 and are available by calling Martin Maxwell on 0131 332 2604.
Learning to cope with a drastic change in lifestyle
FAMILY life has been seriously disrupted since eight-year-old Chloe Henderson was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes just over a year ago.
Chloe, a pupil at Cornbank Primary in Penicuik, must inject insulin into her hips or thighs three times a day - once at breakfast, once in the late afternoon and again before bedtime.
Her twin sister Emma does not have the condition and her dad Alan Henderson believes Chloe may have developed diabetes after contracting a serious chest infection. Her parents need to make Chloe stay up at least three hours after she has eaten her evening meal to give her final injection of the day. She also needs a blood test four times a day.
Mr Henderson, 42, of Cuikenburn, Penicuik, said:
"When she was first diagnosed, it was horrendous. It just hit you like a brick wall. It's still tough on her. In the morning, as soon as she opens her eyes, she needs an injection."
Her parents now hope that by the time Chloe is an adult, islet cell transplants will be at such an advanced stage it will cure her of her need to inject insulin. "It would be great if she could just take a pill in the morning and that would be all," said Mr Henderson. "The progress in the last three years is amazing and I'm confident for her for the future."
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