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Diabetes Research Institute Receives Prestigious Designation from the NIH as Islet Cell Transplant Center

10/5/2004

The Diabetes Research Institute (DRI) at the University of Miami School of Medicine has been selected as one of only five centers worldwide to receive funding from the National Institutes of Health for clinical islet transplant trials in patients with type 1 diabetes.


The NIH plans to award about $75 million over five years to a network that includes only three centers in the United States (the University of Miami, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Pennsylvania) and two centers abroad (Uppsala University in Sweden and the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada) with a data coordinating center at the University of Iowa. For the Diabetes Research Institute, this highly competitive award represents not only an unprecedented federal award in excess of $14 million for islet transplantation research, but also renewed federal recognition of DRI’s excellence in type 1 diabetes research.


“It is critically important that the University of Miami Diabetes Research Institute was selected as one of the three U.S. centers to test novel strategies in clinical islet transplantation for patients with the most severe forms of type 1 diabetes,” explains Camillo Ricordi, M.D., Stacy Joy Goodman Professor of Surgery and Scientific Director of the Diabetes Research Institute at the University of Miami. “This new, unprecedented funding from NIH will allow the DRI to continue and expand our team effort to develop successful islet transplant strategies, without potentially harmful anti-rejection drugs.


“Our long term goal will be to develop safe and effective anti-rejection strategies and eventually immune tolerance to the transplanted insulin producing cells so that patients will no longer require a lifetime of anti-rejection drugs. Coordination of our efforts with other experienced centers is very important, since this leads to highly synergistic and cost effective collaborations, allowing us to proceed in the fastest, most efficient and safest way possible.”


It is estimated that more than 17 million Americans have diabetes, more than one million of those with the type 1 form of the disease. Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults and is often referred to as juvenile diabetes. In type 1 the body does not produce insulin, and daily injections are needed. In the more common type 2 diabetes, or adult-onset, the body produces insulin but doesn’t use it properly. The possible life-long health complications of both types of the disease are enormous.


In islet transplantation, islets are extracted from the pancreas of a deceased donor and infused into the recipient through the portal vein of the liver. In successful transplants, the cells lodge in the liver’s small blood vessels and begin producing insulin. The procedure is seen as having the most potential as a treatment for type 1 diabetes.


“The technology for separation of insulin producing cells from the human pancreas, which we developed and made available worldwide in the ‘90s, allowed for the first successful trials of clinical islet transplantation,” says Dr. Ricordi. “The introduction of novel anti-rejection strategies in the last five years allowed a significant improvement in the success rate of the procedure, but did not eliminate some of the most serious side effects of chronic immunosuppression, which now severely limits the applicability of islet transplantation to the most severe forms of type 1 diabetes.”


The DRI has already designed and submitted new clinical trial protocols as part of the funding process in the NIH network. Pending regulatory review and approval by several federal and local agencies including the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, new clinical studies are expected to open for enrollment as early as next year.


The Diabetes Research Institute Foundation was started in 1971 by a small group of parents of children with diabetes who were committed to finding a cure for this devastating disease. Since its inception, the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation has dedicated itself to finding a cure for type 1 diabetes, and in the process has raised more than $100 million to support the Institute’s research programs while helping to change both the scope and direction of diabetes research in this country.