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Media Contact: Holly Korschun 19 January 2006
  hkorsch@emory.edu    
  (404) 727-3990   Print  | Email ]
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Emory Receives $8.5 Million Grant for Islet Transplantation
Emory University's Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) Center for Islet Transplantation has received new five-year funding from JDRF of nearly $8.5 million, with the goal of advancing islet transplantation to a mainstream therapy for Type 1 diabetes.

Emory's JDRF Center originally was created and funded through a $4.1 million grant from JDRF in 2002 to address the important issue of rejection of donor islets by the patient's immune system. Although islet transplantation from donor pancreases can restore normal insulin production in people with Type 1 diabetes, several problems still exist with current immunosuppressive protocols. The Emory Center will continue to research new strategies leading toward the goal of insulin independence for these patients, without long-term immunosuppression.

Emory physician/scientists have been working for the past several years to refine the islet transplant procedure and to develop immunosuppressive compounds that are equally effective but less toxic to transplant recipients. The Emory JDRF Center's first clinical trial of islet transplantation recently concluded after 15 islet transplants were successfully performed in 8 patients with Type 1 diabetes. A new islet transplant clinical trial, testing a new drug not previously used in transplantation, will begin at Emory in January.

The new funding will be applied to four specific projects. Project 1 will study the safety and effectiveness of Efalizumab, a drug from a new class of therapeutic agents, as part of a four-part drug regimen for human islet transplant recipients. In Project 2, scientists at Emory's Yerkes National Primate Research Center will explore methods of inducing tolerance to allogeneic islet transplants (islets from the same species) in nonhuman primates. Project 3 will focus on anti-inflammatory strategies for islet engraftment, the process in which islets become incorporated into the patient's own system. Project 4, also at Yerkes Research Center, will use nonhuman primates to explore the use of xenotransplantation, or islets transplanted from other species.

Christian P. Larsen, MD, DPhil, director of the Emory Transplant Center, is director of the clinical islet transplantation program and director of Emory's JDRF Center for Islet Transplantation. Dr. Larsen is internationally recognized for his work in devising novel strategies to achieve transplantation tolerance. Collin J. Weber, MD, DMSci, co-principal investigator of the center, has had a distinguished career that includes 25 years of investigations and contributions to the field of diabetes research.

"The JDRF Center has made it possible for us to make significant progress in advancing the field of islet transplantation," Dr. Larsen said. "This new funding will allow us to continue our quest to find innovative ways of allowing patients to receive islet transplants without the toxicities associated with conventional immunosuppressant drugs."

The Emory Transplant Center is one of the most comprehensive transplant centers in the Southeast. The Center includes programs in heart, lung, liver, kidney and kidney-pancreas transplants and fosters cutting-edge basic, translational and clinical research to improve the effectiveness of transplantation and to establish true immune tolerance. In 2003 the Center established the first clinical islet cell transplant program in Georgia, and has since conducted 15 successful islet transplant procedures in eight patients.

For more information about the Emory Transplant Center, visit http://www.transplant.emory.edu. For more information about islet transplantation, call 404-712-1114 or email islets@emoryhealthcare.org. For more information about JDRF, visit http://www.jdrf.org.



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