Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that hinders the body’s capacity to metabolize sugar, either caused by the non-production of insulin by the pancreas or through the inability of the body to use the insulin produced. Over the years, patients with Type 1 diabetes have been injected with insulin supplements to keep their blood glucose levels in control. However, this is not a complete cure for diabetes. A new study by the Northwestern University in Illinois has revealed that pig cells may be the solution.
Islet cells present in the Pancreas
Islets of Langerhans or islet cells are present in the pancreas .These are responsible for producing various hormones. The islets are made up of five different types of cells, one type being the Beta cells that are responsible for the production of insulin. Insulin is essential as it is needed for the proper metabolism of food and regulates the blood sugar levels in the body.
In individuals diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, the beta cells are attacked by the immune system, leaving them incapable of producing insulin. Hence, a person suffering from this form of diabetes is forced to take insulin supplements.
How pig cells can help
Transplantation of islet cells could be the solution for diabetics. However, human islet transplantation hasn’t been all that successful due to the dearth of donors and the chances of rejection by the patient’s body. In order to avoid rejection, immunosuppressant drugs have to be administered and the entire process could leave the individual feeling rather ill.
This is where pig cells come into the limelight with the Northwestern University of Illinois studying the impact of the use of islets from pigs. They are more readily available as compared to human cells and seem to pose minimal risk of rejection by the patient’s body.
However, it is advisable that only those who are facing major complications with regard to elevated blood sugar levels consider islet transplantation.