Back to Research News DRI 2004 Research Update

Diabetes Research Institute 2004 Research Update

On Saturday, October 23, 2004, researchers from the Diabetes Research Institute in Miami, Florida, along with other colleagues, spoke to hundreds of guests about the progress being made in the quest for the cure for type 1 diabetes. Master of Ceremonies and DRIF National Development Director Tom Karlya opened the conference and welcomed everyone. Dr. Denise Stern, Research Update Chairperson, then introduced Dr. Camillo Ricordi, who presented Finding a Cure: A Sequential, Integrated Approach. Dr. Ricordi discussed an 11-point strategy for advancing toward a cure, including with islet donor strategies, islet processing improvements, immune monitoring, immunomodulation, tolerance induction, islet regeneration efforts, and alternate sources of islets.

After his presentation, Dr. Ricordi took questions from the audience. Topics included the highly publicized work of Dr. Denise Faustman, xenotransplantation being done in Mexico, the banking of cord blood, and embryonic stem cell research. Dr. Ricordi had recently been part of a group of scientists and experts who spoke at the United Nations in favor of embryonic stem cell research and against a proposed ban on therapeutic cloning.

Dr. Terry Strom from Harvard University spoke about Transplantation Without Immunosuppression. He spoke about the very powerful immune response to transplanted tissue, which is why transplant recipients must take equally powerful anti-rejection medications. Dr. Strom spoke about innovative work in his lab that uses two modified proteins (IL-2/Fc and IL-15/Fc), along with Rapamycin, to treat animals receiving islet transplants. The animals receive the drugs for only 28 days, yet are able to achieve a stable graft for a very long time -- in the case of the mouse model, for essentially the life of the mouse. Dr. Strom reported that these drugs are being tested in monkeys at this time and that he hopes to be able to test them in humans in the near future.

Dr. David Harlan, Navy Captain and member of the United States Public Health Service (part of the NIDDK), spoke about Recovering Beta Cell Function in Type 1 Patients. Dr. Harlan's research is addressing the question of whether or not islet cell mass is really totally lost in patients with type 1 diabetes. In an afternoon session, Dr. Harlan would report that even in people diagnosed with diabetes as a toddler, there can still be residual insulin production 40 or 50 years after diagnosis. Given that, if the immune attack that causes type 1 diabetes can be stopped, it is possible that the body may heal itself naturally. Dr. Harlan also examined the current survival data for patients receiving whole organ transplants (pancreas and kidney, pancreas after kidney, and pancreas alone) and noted that, for patients without initial kidney problems, the current immunosuppression drugs yield kidney damage and result in a poorer four-year survival rate than patients who do not undergo a transplant. This decline in kidney function is also seen in islet transplant recipients, which is one reason that islet transplantation is not yet appropriate for children with type 1 diabetes.

The final presentation of the morning was by Dr. Luca Inverardi who spoke about The Future of Stem Cell Research. Dr. Inverardi shared both the potential and challenges surrounding embryonic stem cells, which are both immortal and have the potential to grow into any cell in the body. He noted that the process of development is very complicated and not well understood today, and that this is one area of intense study.

The lunchtime keynote speaker was Bernard Siegel, Esquire, head of the Genetics Policy Institute. Mr. Siegel gained national attention when he worked to expose Clonaid's claim to have cloned a human child as a fraud. From that work, Mr. Siegel became involved in the effort to ensure that research using embryonic stem cells and therapeutic cloning is not limited or banned, and to educate people and governments -- including the United Nations -- about the nature of this research.

Dr. Camillo Ricordi led off the morning session with a discussion entitled Diabetes Cure: A Sequential Integrated Approach

CWD IDYA volunteers Liza, Marissa, Erin, and Carolyn staffed the CWD table and spoke with many people about CWD

Dr. Ricordi, along with islet cell transplant recipients Gary Kleiman, Rita Hart, and Ken Tenbusch, answered questions during the afternoon breakout session

October 24, 2004

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