A Cure for Diabetes By Implanting Insulin-Producing Islets in Abdomen

Trials on Primates Have Shown Promising Results


DOCTORS from Hackensack University Medical Center (HUMC) in New Jersey hope to find a cure for diabetes as they embark on a partnership with one of the world’s leading researchers for the disease.

The hospital will be the first to try a procedure on humans with diabetes that is currently being tested on monkeys in Florida — a collaborative effort with Dr. Camillo Ricordi, a pioneer in the field and the scientific director and chief academy officer of the University of Miami Diabetes Research Institute.

“Dr. Ricordi wants to find a cure for diabetes, and he doesn’t care how many people are involved in the process or share in the credit,” said Dr. Michael Shapiro, Hackensack’s chief of organ transplantation and leader of the diabetes partnership. “This collaboration will do great things for diabetes research.”

“Forty percent of transplant patients have diabetes. And we know the DRI is committed to linking everyone worldwide to find a cure,” he said.

Diabetes occurs when the body cannot produce or properly use insulin, a hormone that helps the body metabolize glucose into energy and control blood sugar levels.

With Type 1 diabetes, earlier called juvenile diabetes and the most serious form of the disease, the body’s immune system destroys the cells from the pancreas that make insulin, called islets. People with Type 2 diabetes make insulin, but their body doesn’t utilize it correctly and production of it typically declines as they age. More than 25 million Americans have diabetes, and about 3 million of those suffer with Type 1.

Typical treatment for diabetic patients includes insulin pumps, injections and oral medications. Transplanting islets from deceased donors is sometimes effective, but it frequently triggers other complications because the islets need to be implanted in the liver. The number of organ donors also falls way short of the number of diabetics who would benefit from a transplant.

New Technique

Dr. Ricordi’s technique includes loading islets — the cells that make insulin and are destroyed by Type 1 diabetes — on a disc and implanting them in the abdomen. In the past, islets have been transplanted in the liver with little success.

Dr Camillo Ricordi

“The challenge is we’re dealing with an autoimmune disease so we have to replace or get cells to regenerate that were destroyed,” Ricordi told dozens of HUMC executives, physicians and health care workers last week. “And the key is to do this without a lifelong regimen of autoimmune rejection drugs.”

But successfully transplanting the islets will only be part one of the cure. Researchers need to figure out how to create islets in the lab so there will be enough to treat all diabetic patients who need them. Still, the partnership has hospital executives determined and diabetic patients hopeful. “I’m absolutely sure we’ll find a cure,” said Robert Garrett, president and chief executive of HUMC.

Because of promising results with the monkeys, Shapiro hopes to have four patients undergo the procedure in early 2012. The ideal patients will be those who aren’t responding to other treatments.

Past Success

Physicians attending the announcement highlighted Ricordi’s expertise and advances in treatment of the disease.

His creation, the Ricordi Chamber, is so well-known in the field that it was mentioned in a recent episode of the medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy.” Critical for a transplant, it is able to efficiently separate islets from the pancreas.

Stephanie Stone, who was diagnosed with diabetes at 10 and is now 18, attended the announcement with her Franklin Lakes family. “I’m optimistic for the future,” Stephanie said. “If this isn’t a cure, it sounds like it’s a better treatment before a cure is found.”

Earlier in January, the Molly and Lindsey Diabetes Research Foundation at Hackensack University Medical Center (HUMC) and the Diabetes Research Institute (DRI) at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine had announced the formation of the Hackensack-Miami DRI Federation Project.

The project is aimed to provide a unique opportunity for funding agencies, financial institutions, and corporate entities to collaborate with the scientists and their project teams in order to provide the core competencies and infrastructure needed to move projects forward in the safest, fastest, and most efficient way possible.

“This collaboration represents an exceptional opportunity to overcome current limitations of research progress within traditional academic institutions,” said Robert C. Garrett,

“Hackensack University Medical Center is going to take the lead in diabetes research in the tri-state area,” said Dr. Shapiro. “Forty percent of transplant patients have diabetes. And we know the DRI is committed to linking everyone worldwide to find a cure.”

One of the group’s first objectives is to expand collaborative alliances with other leading research centers and to foster dynamic multidisciplinary research teams.

“There are few other collaborative projects that fully integrate basic, pre-clinical and clinical scientists to increase the rate of progress at which therapeutic solutions for type 1 diabetes can be safely and effectively brought from the bench to the bedside and eventually to a cure,” said Dr. Ricordi.

The impossible becomes possible when you bring the right people and the right resources together – especially when there is a common goal. The Molly and Lindsey Diabetes Research Foundation is the brainchild of two families who know what it means to have a child living with diabetes.

Nick Miniccuci and his wife, Susan, made a pledge more than two decades ago when they were told their nine-year-old daughter Molly had diabetes. “I vowed to do everything in my power to find a cure” explains Mr. Miniccuci, one of the philanthropists behind the alliance.  “That was a promise I intend to keep.”

“When Lindsey was diagnosed at the age of 11, we searched the world for a place that focused on curing the disease – not simply on learning to live with it –  and found theDRI,” said Bonnie Inserra, co-founder of the Foundation.  “There’s nobody like them worldwide. TheDRI team doesn’t keep research to themselves; they are experts who believe in worldwide collaborative science.  I want to see diabetes cured.”

In recognition of the endless efforts of Susan and Nick Minicucci and Bonnie and Larry Inserra, the HUMC Foundation’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Robert L. Torre, presented a $500,000 check to the Miami-Hackensack project during a dinner held in January at the Stony Hill Inn Hackensack.  More than 50 people came together to celebrate a turning point in the history of diabetes thanks to the Minicucci and Inserra families. “We want to celebrate this new partnership – together we will find a cure,” Torre said.

About HUMC

HUMC is a nationally recognized healthcare organization offering patients the most comprehensive services, state-of-the-art technologies, and facilities. A leader in providing the highest quality patient-centered care, the medical center has been recognized for performance excellence encompassing the entire spectrum of hospital quality and service initiatives. These honors include being named one of America’s 50 Best Hospitals by HealthGrades® for four years in a row.

HUMC is the only hospital in New Jersey, New York, and New England to receive this honor. The medical center has also been ranked by U.S. News and World Report’s “America’s Best Hospitals 2010-11” in Geriatrics and Heart and Heart Surgery. NJBIZ, New Jersey’s premiere business news publication, honored HUMC as the 2010 Hospital of the Year, recognized for its excellence, innovation, and efforts which are making a significant impact on the quality of healthcare in New Jersey.

Hospital Newspaper, the leading provider of local hospitals and healthcare community news and information for hospital executives, also named HUMC Hospital of the Year in its December 2010 edition. Additionally, HUMC was named to The Leapfrog Group’s annual class of top hospitals and health systems and is one of only two hospitals in New Jersey to receive this national designation. HUMC is the hometown hospital of the New York Giants and Nets Basketball.

About the DRI

The Diabetes Research Institute, a Center of Excellence at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, is a recognized world leader in cure-focused research. Since its inception in the early 1970s, the DRI has made significant contributions to the field of diabetes research, pioneering many of the techniques used in islet transplantation.

The DRI is now building upon these achievements by bridging cell-based therapies with emerging technologies to restore insulin production. For the millions of families already affected by diabetes, the Diabetes Research Institute is the best hope for a cure.  Visit DiabetesResearch.org or call 800-321-3437 for more information.

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  • anurdha mandapaka  On May 3, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    Its nice to read about such researches, keeps up the hope. Diabetics can hope to have better treatments in future.

  • toasty redhead  On May 14, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    Right on!

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