The Miami diabetes expert whose innovative work recently made headlines for helping to save an injured U.S. soldier from a life-threatening form of diabetes believes that this new decade will see great strides in finding cures for the deadly disease.
“I am confident that within the next five-to-ten years this regenerative strategy will play an important role in the cure for diabetes,” Dr. Camillo Ricordi, M.D., chief of the University of Miami Medical School’s Diabetes Research Institute said in an interview with aerochug.com..
He was commenting on the case of Airman Tre F. Porfirio, 21, of St. Mary’s, Ga., who was shot in the back while on duty in Afghanistan. The soldier underwent multiple operations and was undergoing surgery again at Walter Reed Army Medical Center when his surgeon discovered his that pancreas was badly damaged and required removal. The pancreas secrete insulin, a hormone that enables the body to transform blood sugar into energy, and removing it would have resulted in a severe, life-threatening form of diabetes. The doctors, seeking an alternative, contacted Dr. Ricordi because they knew of his innovative work in islet cell transplantation. There was one hitch though; the procedure requires specialized equipment and expertise, and Dr. Ricordi and his team were nearly 1,400 miles away.
No problem, it turned out. Early on Thanksgiving Day, the soldier’s doctors at Walter Reed removed the soldier’s pancreas, packed it up, and flew it to Miami, where Dr. Ricordi and his team waited. They went to work harvesting the islet cells, purifying them, and then flew the the cells back to Walter Reed where doctors there transplanted them into the soldier’s liver later that day. They are now producing insulin and the airman is recovering.
There were several historic firsts involved in this surgery. First and foremost, of course, was the fact that it was done remotely. This will enable more patients to undergo the potentially life-saving procedure.
“We need to let people know that this procedure can be done anywhere that is within a six-hour distance to Miami, because there needs to be enough time for the pancreas to arrive and for us to ship the islet cells back,” says Dr. Ricordi. This means the procedure can be done on patients in many US. states as well as the Caribbean and South America.
The procedure is currently used for patients whose pancrease were damaged by injury or pancreatitis, which is an inflammation of the pancreas. However, Dr. Ricordi’s center has several research projects underway to treat more common forms of diabetes. For instance, one research trial getting underway this year will focus on infusing these patients with their own stem cells. “It holds great promise,” said Dr. Ricordi.
Diabetes, which afflicts more than 23.6 million Americans, causes heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney disease, amputatoins and nerve damage.
For more information on how to prevent diabetes click here.
For more information on stem cell research, click here.