MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — In the United States, there are more than 25 million diabetics. So, the chance to keep more people from having to depend on insulin for the rest of their lives is worth trying — especially for children.
Now, a new procedure, pioneered by the University of Minnesota, is helping those who suffer from pancreatitis avoid diabetes in the future.
Ethan Warren, 11, is walking proof of the advances of medicine. For three years, he’s battled chronic pancreatitis, which is a severe inflammation of the pancreas that causes excruciating pain.
“It’s like someone punching you in the stomach as hard as they can, like someone from a wresting show punching you repeatedly,” said Warren.
Warren’s parents, Carrie Daniels and Jeff Warren say it has been difficult seeing their son have to give up sports and his favorite foods in an effort to diminish the pain. Plus, they know his pancreas, an organ key to our body’s energy system, was slowly destroying itself.
Severe malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies are just some of the risky consequences common for children with pancreatitis.
“If the pancreas were left in, there would be a 50 percent chance of cancer throughout their lifetime,” said Dr. Srinath Chinnakotla, a pediatric transplant surgeon.
So, at the University of Minnesota’s Amplatz Children’s Hospital, Warren’s pancreas was removed and his islet cells were saved, purified and reinserted into his liver.
Unlike similar islet cell transplants from donors, Warren will not need anti-rejection medications, because they are his own cells.
For one-third to two-thirds of patients, the pancreas’ insulin production resumes normally, keeping them from becoming diabetic.
“So, I am very confident he will not need insulin in the future,” said Chinnakotla.
Already feeling relief from his worst pain, Warren now has one simple hope.
“To be normal,” said Warren.