Researchers are hoping that cells from pigs from a remote group of islands 300 miles from New Zealand could lead to a new treatment for Type 1 diabetes.
Some of the pigs have been moved from the islands to mainland New Zealand, where they are being kept in fully enclosed sterile housing. The scientists are trialling the cell transplantation technique on a small group of people with unstable Type 1 diabetes in the hope of stimulating insulin production in their pancreases.
Professor Bob Elliott who is running the trial has undertaken two similar studies in the past, one in 1995 and one in 2007. He says one volunteer from the first study continued producing insulin 12 years after transplantation - "proof of principle that this can work," he claims.
Dr Iain Frame, Research Director at Diabetes UK, said: “Research into pig cell transplantation has been going on for several years, and is an exciting area of investigation.
“However, two previous trials in 1995 and 2007 used only 15 volunteers and this small study will be carried out in just eight people in the first instance. It really is far too early to assume that this research will produce a real and lasting benefit to people with Type 1 diabetes in the near future. We will, however, be watching the progress of this area of research with great interest.”