You might remember one of my early posts on Living Cell Technologies (LCT), a NZ company who are experimenting with the use of pig cells to treat diabetes patients. They are currently in trial at Middlemore Hospital in Auckland, and I read this morning that the first trial patient has had no side effects after transplant 8 weeks ago, and has now been able to reduce his daily insulin intake by up to 30 %.
LCT is actively working to develop life-changing cellular therapies – treatments that will improve the quality of life of patients with diabetes, haemophilia, hearing loss, liver failure and brain degenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and Huntington’s disease.
In the case of diabetes, this is done by encapsulating the healthy living pig cells that produce insulin, in a seaweed derived extract (alginate) to form tiny particles that are then implanted into the patient to provide insulin.
Diabetes is suffered by 11,000 New Zealander's, and throughout both developed and developing countries, the number of those affected is increasing at a steady rate. Although there are clearly some ethical issues involved with this type of treatment, this is an emerging area which, through Living Cell Technologies, represents an opportunity for NZ to capitalise.