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Health Talk Recommends: Crossing the finish line

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the Spring 2013 University of Minnesota Foundation newsletter, Discoveries in Diabetes. The complete article can be found here.

Pastor Constance “Connie” Olson is a type 1 diabetic, suffering from hypoglycemic unawareness. This complication meant that she didn’t experience early warning signs of dangerously low blood sugar—such as sweating, dizziness, and extreme hunger—causing her to unexpectedly have seizures and lose consciousness.

Olson applied to and was eventually accepted into the University of Minnesota’s human-to-human islet cell transplantation clinical trial—her best hope of a cure. After undergoing two islet transplants under the care of Bernhard Hering, M.D., scientific director of the University’s Schulze Diabetes Institute, she is now free from the daily burden of diabetes.

Connie Olson with her husband David.

“No other center has enrolled more patients than the U of M,” says Hering. “The U of M has been a major contributor to this study at several levels.”

The U of M’s clinical trials are delivering the world’s best results: all transplant recipients were protected from hypoglycemia immediately after the transplant, 80 percent remained protected from severe hypoglycemia for five years post-transplant, 90 percent have become insulin independent, and more than 50 percent have maintained insulin independence for five years post-transplant.

With decades of research complete, the University has one more step: securing a biologic license from the FDA to procure islets from donor pancreases for transplantation, a process that will require about $5 million.

Once licensed, the University will offer patients greater access to islet transplantation and will use this treatment as the platform for continuing to develop the next-generation of transplantation cures, including the use of pig and stem cell islets, with minimal or no antirejection drugs.

To learn more about how you can help reach the research funding goal please visit here.

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