A Georgia man who was once a diabetic, is celebrating his tenth year of being diabetes-free, thanks to experimental surgery undertaken in 2004. Rob Allen underwent a transplant procedure that cured him of type-1 diabetes and hopes it will soon be approved for use to help others with the deadly disease. Ben Gruber reports.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) ROB ALLEN, ISLET TRANSPLANT RECIPIENT, SAYING: "My wife and I say a prayer before our meal every morning and I thank God for the islet cell transplant. Every meal, I thank God for the islet cell transplant... every day. There is not a day that goes by that I ever take that for granted." Rob Allen is a pioneer. Ten years ago on January 22, 2004, he underwent experimental surgery as part of a clinical trial at Emory University to see if his type 1 diabetes could be cured with a transplant of donor islet cells. The experiment worked. After two transplants, the donor cells began producing insulin. He was effectively cured of diabetes. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ROB ALLEN, ISLET TRANSPLANT RECIPIENT, SAYING: "There is not a day that goes by that I take that for granted. I don't, man I am thankful I had those islet cells." For Allen, and his surgeon Dr Christian Larsen, this year - the tenth anniversary of the procedures - is a landmark year. . (SOUNDBITE) (English) CHRISTIAN LARSEN, TRANSPLANT SURGEON AND DEAN OF MEDICINE, EMORY UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "It's incredibly exciting and it shows the potential and promise of what islet transplantation could do for patients with type-1 diabetes. But islet transplantation is not available to everyone who might benefit. Dr Larsen says that while research into the field has intensified over the past ten years, the Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved it for use in the United States. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CHRISTIAN LARSEN, TRANSPLANT SURGEON AND DEAN OF MEDICINE, EMORY UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "There are two areas where we really need to make breakthroughs in the area of islet transplantation. One is just improving the technology of getting enough islets to treat all of the patients, or the patients that could potentially benefit, and that is a technological hurdle. The other is that because the islets come from another individual, an organ donor, they would be recognized as foreign and rejected." And that means patients receiving a transplant need to spend the rest of their lives taking anti-rejection drugs, which can lead to side effects like high blood pressure and a weaker immune system. But Rob Allen says he doesn't mind the drugs. He says anything is better than the constant insulin reactions he endured before the transplant. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ROB ALLEN, ISLET TRANSPLANT RECIPIENT, SAYING: "Insulin reactions were my quote unquote downfall. And it remained that way. I had about three car crashes as a result of it, I had to takes days off from work, there were even days where I didn't even realise what day it was. I would wake up and I was wondering what day is this? Where am I?" Dr. Larsen says that researchers are now looking at developing a new class of drugs designed to shorten or eliminate the need for anti-rejection drugs. As for Rob Allen he says that ten years ago he was given a new lease on life... (SOUNDBITE) (English) ROB ALLEN, ISLET TRANSPLANT RECIPIENT, SAYING: "It was definitely a blessing. It was more than a blessing, it was a miracle, it was a miracle, nothing less than that."