A newly-formed company, Islet Transplantation Technology, is readyto perform its first human-to-human pancreatic islet cell transplant atthe University of California, Irvine (UCI). The company is a subsidiaryof CEC Industries Corp., a holding corporation based in Salt Lake Citywhich provided the new company with $5 million in start-up capital.The transplantation technology was developed by Arthur Charles,director of the Diabetes Research Center at UCI, and by Jackie See, anassistant professor at UCI, where the new company is based. See is alsomedical director of Bio-sphere Technology Inc. Bio-sphere, which isbased in Las Vegas, licensed the liposome and microsphere technologyfor the procedure to CEC.According to Don Steffens, Bio-sphere's vice president, a specialisolation device will be used to remove islets from the donor pancreasfor transplantation into the patient. The cells will be transplanted intothe arterial wall of the liver or kidney. Some 400,000 islets, about atablespoonful, will be needed for each transplant, and 80 percent ofthem will need to survive for the operation to be successful.Steffens said UCI's internal review board has given approval for thetransplants when suitable recipients are identified. Steffens said therewill be three recipients, all adults with differing stages of Type Idiabetes.Ultimately the prime candidates for this treatment, according toSteffens, will be people with Type I diabetes, especially children withjuvenile diabetes or young adults whose internal organs have not beenseverely damaged by the disease.If the transplants are successful, the company hopes to be able to moveto xenotransplantation _ the use of islets from animal donors _ due tothe shortage of available human pancreases. An implant will beconsidered a complete success if the recipient no longer requiresinsulin.Some 176 transplants of human islet cells have been performed bydifferent groups, according to William Chick, president and scientificdirector of BioHybrid Technologies Inc., a Shrewsbury, Mass.company founded in 1985 to develop a biohybrid artificial pancreasusing insulin-producing microreactors. Chick said he knew of only twocases where the recipients no longer required insulin after two years. Inall other cases, patients again required insulin after a period of weeksor months.Chick said the difficulties of islet transplantation are many. Theyinclude the shortage of human pancreases, the skills required to isolatethe islets, the difficulty of harvesting enough islets, and problems inkeeping the islets functioning after transplantation. For this reason, hesaid, most transplants have been performed in academic settings.In addition to BioHybrid, companies developing islet transplantationtechnologies include CytoTherapeutics Inc. of Providence, R.I. and itscollaborator, Neocrin Co. of Irvine, Calif. n

-- Philippa Maister

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