Julia Krestow, BSc, MSc
Geriatrics & Aging
It is perhaps not since Banting and Best's discovery of insulin in 1921, that a discovery in diabetic research has held such potential for the treatment of this crippling disease. In May of this year, the University of Alberta achieved instant fame when a research team, led by Dr. Ray Rajotte, announced that it had successfully freed seven diabetics from their daily insulin injections. The team, which consisted of Dr. Jonathan Lakey and Dr. Greg Korbutt, and also included the transplant surgeon Dr. James Shapiro, reported their results at the American Society of Transplant Surgeons and the American Transplantation Society in Chicago. Dr. Shapiro has succeeded in transplanting donor insulin-producing, pancreatic islet cells into seven people, all of whom had, prior to the study, required up to 15 self-injected insulin shots on a daily basis.
Diabetes affects more than 2.25 million Canadians and is subdivided into two categories; Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and occurs when the pancreas is unable to produce insulin. Type II diabetes, which accounts for approximately 90% of the cases and usually develops in adulthood, occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body does not use the insulin effectively.