Pig Cells To Fight Diabetes
A biotech company in New Zealand is conducting experiments using the insulin producing cells of newborn pigs to fight Type 1 Diabetes in humans.
They plan to implant the pig cells into human volunteers. Type 1 Diabetes is a disease in which the insulin producing cells in the pancreas are destroyed. Insulin is normally produced in the pancreas to regulate the amount of glucose(sugar) in the blood and other tissues.
Damage that results from the faulty regulation of glucose in the body can cause many severe symptoms.
Living Cell Technologies hopes the cells may be able to delay the effects of Type 1 diabetes, including blindness, premature coronary illness and limb amputation resulting from poor blood circulation.
Prof. Bob Elliott, medical director of the company, acknowledged that, even in the best-case scenario, the treatment would not eliminate all symptoms.
Some scientists have warned that implanting pig cells has risks. Others say it is too soon to begin testing on humans because no animal trials were conducted.
Pig tissue is currently used to replace faulty heart valves in humans. Some scientists have raised fears that inactive viruses stitched into the genome(DNA) of the pigs may become switched on when moved to humans. They also raise the possibility that diseases pigs are prone to may cross the species barrier and infect humans, setting off an epidemic as was the case with swine flu(H1N1).
The biotech scientists have assured the public that this could not happen as their pigs are isolated and healthy.