The first New Zealand patient implanted with pig cells in the latest round of xenotransplant clinical trials has been able to reduce his daily insulin dose.
The 48-year-old type-1 diabetes patient had insulin-producing cells from a piglet pancreas inserted into his abdomen at Auckland's Middlemore Hospital on October 6.
"The patient has reduced his insulin dose and suffered no ill effects to date," said the principal investigator, endocrinologist Dr John Baker.
The clinical trials of the Living Cell Technologies product - pig islet cells wrapped in a seaweed-based gelatine to stop them triggering rejection by the body's immune system - follow trials at lower dosage rates of the Diabecell implants in Russia.
The hospital's centre for clinical research and effective practice said the man had suffered type 1 diabetes for 20 years but had started to drop his daily insulin injections by 30 per cent while maintaining his usual blood glucose levels.
Clinical details are limited as the trial is still at an early stage and was designed to keep the principal investigator unbiased and blinded to selected clinical information.
A second New Zealand patient is to receive the implants later this month, and two more patients early in the New Year - all of them at a dose rate of 10,000 islet cell equivalents for each kilogram body weight (IEQ/kg).
A further four patients will next year be given the trials top dose of 15,000 cells/kg.
Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body's own immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas and affects 5 to 10 per cent of the more than 200 million diabetics worldwide. The disease is associated with kidney failure, blindness, nerve damage, life-threatening cardiovascular disease and limb amputations.