A groundbreaking diabetes treatment programme in Scotland has proven a major success after managing to improve the lives of a dozen patients with type 1 diabetes.
Under the Scottish National Pancreatic Islet Transplant Programmen, 18 islet cell infusion operations have been carried out in just 18 months. Each operation involves extracting islet cells from a deceased donor’s pancreas and injecting them into the liver of an insulin-dependent diabetic patient.
The complex treatment is designed to help type 1 diabetics who struggle to control their condition, with all of the treated patients now able to recognise drops in their blood sugar levels. It has also been shown to reduce patients’ dependence on insulin, with most of those treated now only requiring tiny regular doses of the hormone.
Alex Neil, Scotland’s Health Secretary, said the exciting programme could lead to a better future for all type 1 diabetes sufferers.
“In Scotland, we know that around 28,000 people currently have type 1 diabetes, with an estimated 2,000 not realising when their blood sugar level is low,” he commented.
“The aim is to reduce the frequency of low blood sugars and give back the ability to recognise them. Although some patients may not achieve complete insulin independence, the treatment will dramatically reduce their dependence on insulin.”
Mr John Casey, Transplant Surgeon at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and Clinical Lead for the Scottish Islet Transplant Programmen, added: “All the staff in the islet programme are delighted to see the difference that this treatment has made to the lives of our patients and hope that we can continue to improve the lives of many more patients with poorly controlled diabetes.”

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