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UIC News Tips
University of Illinois at Chicago Office of Public Affairs (MC 288)
601 S. Morgan St., Chicago, IL 60607-7113, (312) 996-3456, www.uic.edu/depts/paff

May 15, 2001 Contact: Sharon Butler, (312) 355-2522, sbutler@uic.edu

Research seeks a cure for Type I diabetes

On May 16, UIC opens a state-of-the-art laboratory for isolating and transplanting the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas in an effort to cure-not just treat-Type I diabetes.

The ribbon cutting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m., to be followed by a tour of the facility. A symposium entitled "Update in Islet Cell Transplantation: 2001 and Beyond" precedes the event and begins at 2 p.m.

The $3.3 million laboratory, under the direction of Dr. Cristiana Rastellini, is one of the best in the world for this type of transplant procedure. A section of the lab, where the insulin-producing beta cells are isolated from the donor pancreas, is a virtually dust-free environment that minimizes the risk of contamination. Air in the room is changed 20 times an hour, and temperature and humidity are under microprocessor control.

A glass-enclosed peninsula allows observers to view the procedures without actually entering the clean room. Several video cameras, one mounted on a microscope and others around the room, are connected to the Web so that collaborators and students around the world can participate.

The laboratory also includes a clean cold room-added to the original design after previous experience indicated a cold environment is optimal for separating the beta cells from the digestive enzyme cells in the pancreas.

"We're right at the cutting edge of technology in islet cell transplantation," said Rastellini.

The procedure involves isolating the islets of beta cells from the pancreas of a cadaver donor. The isolated islets are then injected through the portal vein into the patient's liver, a procedure that takes about 20 minutes and is done under local anesthesia.

A five-year study will focus on novel methods for preventing the rejection of transplanted islet cells by attempting to induce tolerance rather than suppress rejection, according to Rastellini. Rejection is a common problem in most organ transplants, because the patient's own immune system is programmed to destroy any tissue it identifies as foreign.

A limited number people are being enrolled in the UIC study. The patients either suffer from diabetes induced by the removal of the pancreas for medical reasons or from Type I diabetes, a degenerative illness in which a glitch in the immune system causes the body to attack the islet cells. Without these insulin-producing cells, glucose builds up to dangerous levels in the blood. The disease generally strikes before the age of 30 and leads to severe complications, including kidney failure, nerve damage and blindness. About 1.6 million Americans suffer from Type I diabetes.

More information on the islet cell transplantation research and facilities at UIC is available online.

- UIC -

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