A US soldier with multiple gun shot wounds in his pancreas was saved from Diabetes using new stem cell research. Tre Porfirio, a 21 year old US airman, was shot while serving our country in Afghanistan. Bullets almost destroyed his pancreas, the place in the body where insulin is produced.
In an amazing development for stem cell research, doctors at the University of Miami removed some remaining insulin producing islet cells from his pancreas and transplanted these cells into his liver. Now, these islet cells are producing insulin for his body from his liver!
Doctors at Walter Reed removed what was left of Porfirio's pancreas, packed it into a special container that held it at 32.3 degrees Fahrenheit and couriered it to the University of Miami. Ricordi and his team received it at 11 p.m. and spent the next six hours removing the insulin-producing islet cells.
Using enzymes and gentle heat, they extracted thousands of the cells, which range from .002 inches to .02 inches across, put them in a plastic bag similar to those used in blood donations, put them back in the container, this time at 46 degrees -- and, by 6:30 Thanksgiving morning -- couriered it back to Walter Reed.
There, doctors hoisted the bag on a pole and, by gravity, fed the islet cells into a duct in the airman's liver, with Dr. Ricordi and his team coordinating the procedure via an Internet connection with surgeons at Walter Reed. By Monday, the new cells in his liver were producing insulin, although doctors also were giving him extra insulin to avoid stressing the new cells.
DR. CAMILLO RICORDI, STEM CELL GENIUS
Credit for this miracle goes to Dr. Camillo Ricordi, chief of the University of Miami Medical School's Diabetes Research Institute, and a stem cell research pioneer who has been trying similar methods on patients since 1990.
``The cells are lodged in his liver now, and they will develop their own new blood vessels there within weeks,'' Ricordi says.
Ricordi is optimistic about Porfirio's prognosis, even long-term.
``There's no reason to think they [the cells] will fail at any time. He has a very good chance for long-term health.''
Ricordi says that, since only about half of Porfirio's pancreas was left from which to remove islet cells, the remaining cells in the liver might not be able to produce as much insulin as he needs -- and might need to be supplemented.
``We've never done this before. We don't want to be over-optimistic.''
Look at those last 4 paragraphs-- "Ricordi is optimistic.... There's no reason to think they will fail.".. and then the last sentence we get "we don't want to be over-optimistic."
What's wrong with being optimistic or even over optimistic? Positive thinking can help one's health too- numerous studies have shown this. And if it fails, that would be disappointing, but the alternative would have been to do nothing at all and just let Tre become a full blown diabetic. Again, I wish these doctors would be more proud of their research and achievements rather than the standard "much is still unknown, but it is promising" vanilla statements we always get.
Nevertheless, brave to Dr. Ricordi at the University of Miami for his achievements in stem cell research.
See more on this stem cell pioneer here