Pig-to-Primate Islet Cell Transplantation
There are around 500,000 type 1 diabetic patients in Japan (data from Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW) as of 2015). In type 1 diabetes, the body's immune system attacks the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas, and permanently destroys more than 90% of these cells. Most people who have type 1 diabetes develop the disease before age 30, although it can develop later in life.
It is believed that a viral infection or a nutritional factor during childhood or early adulthood may cause the immune system to destroy the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. A genetic predisposition may make some people more susceptible to the environmental factor.
Recently, MHLW permitted pig-to-primate islet xenotransplantation for type 1 diabetic patients. In the xenotransplantation, islet cells of pigs' pancreas will be transplanted to the patients. The transplanted islet cells are expected to secrete insulin that lowers the blood sugar level of the patients. To prevent immune cells of the patents from attacking the transplanted islet cells, they will be coated with a special film.
In 2019, a research team of National Center for Global Health and Medicine will start experiments of pig-to-primate islet cell transplantation for type 1 diabetic patients.