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Researchers Work on Developing Cure for Diabetes

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Jonathan Bloom has been living with Type One Diabetes for close to 30 years. His son was diagnosed with the disease when he was four.

Bloom says keeping his blood sugar under control requires constant monitoring.

"I check a minimum of four times a day, which is breakfast, lunch, dinner, and bed time. If I exercise, I check before, during, and after exercise," he says.

To keep his blood sugar level constant, Bloom uses an insulin pump. But his hope is that one day he could throw that away.

A new experiemental procedure could mean that day is not too far away. Doctors at UC San Francisco are about to begin trials of islet cell transplantation, taking tiny islet cells from a donor pancreas and transplanting them into a diabetic. Once implanted, the new cells begin to make insulin.

Dr. Peter Stock says, "The patients have done very well in terms of being able to tolerate the procedure."

Dr. Stock says nationwide, about 50 patients have already undergone the procedure. Many are now able to make their own insulin. Those patients need to take anti-rejection drugs to stop their bodies rejecting the transplants.

However, new techniques and new medications mean those are easier to take, with fewer side effects.

"I have to tell you that the immuno suppressive regimens that are being used are pretty safe," Dr. Stock says.

Jonathan Bloom says the procedure offers hope of a cure. "My dream is to have my son and myself become the first father son transplant in San Francisco."

Dr. Stock says research with stem cells could ultimately enable them to generate new islet cells from the patient's own body, so there would not be any need for anti-rejection drugs.

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