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Type 1 diabetes can be addressed by injecting insulin-producing cells into the eye

Type 1 diabetes can be tackled by a new technique in which insulin-producing cells are implanted in the eye.

This has been found to reduce the need for regular daily insulin intake in animals by more than half and must now be tested in humans.

Although type 2 diabetes is linked to lifestyle and occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin – the hormone that sucks up sugar into the bloodstream – type 1 is caused by the immune system that destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, known as islet cells.

There is no cure and patients need multiple doses of insulin every day by injection or pump.

Type 1 diabetes can be tackled by a new technique in which insulin-producing cells are implanted in the eye (file image)

Type 1 diabetes can be tackled by a new technique in which insulin-producing cells are implanted in the eye (file image)

Some patients are offered a transplant of insulin-producing cells in the liver, which may reduce the need for insulin altogether.

However, even with anti-rejection drugs, the cells are attacked and one trial at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver reported that half of the cells were lost within a few days. The immunosuppressive drugs needed to limit such attacks can also cause side effects, such as an increased risk of infections and cancer.

In a new trial, patients receive donor cells injected into the anterior chamber – the fluid-filled space between the iris (the colored part of the eye) and the inner surface of the front cornea. This area has been chosen because it has ‘immune rights’, meaning that it does not carry out an immune attack on foreign bodies, so the hope is that the transplanted cells will not be attacked.

The eye is one of the few areas in the body with immune rights and it is thought that this protects eyesight from the damage that can occur with swelling and inflammation associated with an immune response.

In the study at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in the US, ten patients with type 1 diabetes who are blinded to one eye receive island cells donated from cadavers into their eye through a small cornea incision. The procedure, under general anesthesia, takes approximately 25 minutes.

In a new trial, patients receive donor cells injected into the anterior chamber - the fluid-filled space between the iris (the colored part of the eye) and the inner surface of the front cornea (file image)

In a new test, patients receive donor cells injected into the anterior chamber - the fluid-filled space between the iris (the colored part of the eye) and the inner surface of the front cornea (file image)

In a new trial, patients receive donor cells injected into the anterior chamber – the fluid-filled space between the iris (the colored part of the eye) and the inner surface of the front cornea (file image)

Patients are monitored for six months to check how treatment affects their insulin requirements and whether symptoms and blood sugar levels have improved.

(Participants all use anti-rejection medication that has also had kidney transplants – but researchers ultimately hope to show the need for little or none of these drugs.)

Various animal studies have shown that the procedure can be very effective. When doctors from the Bascom Institute and Miami University transplanted cells into the anterior chamber of a baboon with diabetes, the animal’s own insulin production increased after three months, while the need for external insulin decreased by 60 percent. His eyesight was unaffected.

Dr. Ali Aldibbiat, consultant in diabetes and endocrinology at the Dasman Diabetes Institute in Kuwait and honorary doctor for research at the University of Newcastle, comments on the research and says that island transplantation has been used more and more in the last two decades.

He adds: “We are anxiously awaiting the results of the study to see if this transplant approach is safe for the eye and if the transplanted islets are effective in treating diabetes.”

  • According to researchers in the US, a drug approved to treat type 2 diabetes can also help people with type 1 diabetes

Tablets of sodium-glucose co-transporter-2 inhibitors work by helping the kidneys lower blood sugar levels.

In a study at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in 26 patients with type 1 diabetes, and reported in the Journal of Primary Care & Community Health, researchers discovered that most of them had improvements in average blood sugar levels and in weight.

Researchers think that it can be a ‘useful’ additional treatment.

HOUSERS

The kitchen cabinet ‘heals’ that really works. This week: Verrucas and warts:

Warts are growths caused by the human papillomavirus; Verruca’s are simple warts that occur on the soles of the feet.

Typical treatments include freezing or a salicylic acid cream to stop growth. But they can be hard to admit.

Another option that has had some success is duct tape – the sticky, watertight type used in construction.

You cut the duct tape on the wart, stick it on and let it sit for six days. Remove the tape, wash the area and dry.

Then file the dead skin on the wart or verruca away with an emery board or pumice stone. Repeat the process until the wart disappears.

“Many people swear by this, so there may be something in it,” says Dr. Anthony Bewley, a dermatologist at Barts Health NHS Trust in London.

TRY THIS

This time of year there are sore throats everywhere. GeloRevoice lozenges protect against sore throat and voice loss, thanks to a gel formula that covers the throat.

Package of 20, £ 6.50, sainsburys.co.uk.

STRANGE PAINS

When symptoms in one area indicate a problem elsewhere. This week: earache can be arthritis

Earache can be a sign of arthritis in the neck, because the same nerves that come from the spinal cord to serve the neck also nourish the ear.

“When the nerve gets pinched by arthritis in the neck, it can cause ear pain,” says Henry Sharp, a consultant ear, nose and throat surgeon (ENT) at East Kent Hospitals NHS Trust.

“This is because your brain cannot see the difference between locations when the nerve is affected.”

Sharp adds that this type of earache can also cause problems in the throat, thanks to the shared nerve supply.

“The pain may be due to a small object in the throat,” he adds.

“But in rare cases it can be an early sign of cancer in the voicebox.

“That’s why ear pain without discharge or obvious causes should not be ignored.”

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