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This discovery could be a breakthrough for people with Type 1 diabetes

A naturally occurring antioxidant may increase the amount of pancreatic islet cells that survive after being transplanted into patients with Type 1 diabetes — for humans and for dogs.

The antioxidant, bilirubin, is the focus of a study by researchers at N.C. State and Ohio State universities, which was published this week in the journal Cell Transplantation. Bilirubin is believed to help more pancreatic cells survive after a transplant, helping the recipient produce insulin.

Up to 70 percent of transplanted islet cells die within three days in the liver after being injected into patients, according to the study.

Testing by N.C. State College of Veterinary Medicine associate professor Chris Adin and Ohio State biomedical engineering professor Xiaoming He found that small capsules containing a dose of bilirubin improved the cell death rate, to 18 percent.

“Bilirubin is a molecule found in every cell in our body,” Adin said in a press release, “and while too much of it can be harmful, it can be beneficial if we supplement cells with just the right amount of this molecule.”

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The next step is to create a treatment program for canines that can serve as a model for potentially improved treatments for humans, Adin said.

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