Wednesday, June 30, 2004.
Patients tell of diabetes cure
By medical reporter Sophie Scott
The first Australian patients to be cured from type one diabetes have spoken about their treatment.
Doctors from Sydney's Westmead Hospital transplanted cells from a donated pancreas into the patients and they are now producing their own insulin.
Barbara Dunn and Julie Mudd are among the first Australian patients to undergo the ground-breaking transplant.
After being diabetic for 37 years, Ms Dunne is now free of daily injections.
"I don't have insulin anymore so I'm just like you, a normal person," Ms Dunn said.
Ms Mudd had the transplant two weeks ago and hopes to be needle-free within days.
"I can walk to the shops, I can vacuum the floor, I can chase my little 18-month-old around the house and pick her up and enjoy her which was a real struggle before," Ms Mudd said.
Doctors working in a state-of-art-cell research lab at the Westmead Hospital carried out the radical procedure.
Philip O'Connell, head of the Cellular Therapies Lab, says his team extracted insulin-producing cells called islets from a donated pancreas.
The cells were then injected into the liver of the diabetic patient and have started producing insulin.
"This is a very big breakthrough," Professor O'Connell said. "Using a cell-based therapy to treat a chronic disease is very, very new and its the way of the future."
So far, the procedure has been carried out on six patients who have severe unstable diabetes.
They will need to take low doses of anti-rejection drugs for the rest of their lives.
"I don't look at my daughter and wonder whether I'm going to see her start school," Ms Mudd said. "I know now that I'm going to be there to watch her grow up."
The techniques being developed in the lab are also being used to help cure cancers such as leukaemia.
Ellie Taylor Corney was diagnosed with leukaemia as a baby.
When she had a bone marrow transplant, new technology meant doctors could screen the tissue to kill off any viruses which may have harmed her.
She has now fully recovered.