When Unique Turns Common
A group of Belarusian scientists led by Professor Stanislav Tretyak has been developing new medical methods for more than a quarter of a century now. It is owing to their efforts that Belarus possesses an effective treatment for diabetes. The methods applied in Minsk are not used anywhere else in the world
So what did Doctor Tretyak and his team invent? A unique method of treatment for insulin-dependent diabetes, which necessitates regular injections of artificial or animal insulin and leaves no chance of relaxation or rest. Diabetes sufferers are well aware that no diets or scheduled shots may prevent serious complications in future.
Over years of experiments Belarusian scientists learnt to graft islet pancreas cells of rabbits and pigs. Stanislav Tretyak got the idea to use animal islet cells as transplants from Russian Academician Valery Shumakov, the director of the Institute for Transplantation of Bioartificial Organs.
During an operation a transplant is put in a tiny container that looks like a synthetic tube and is inserted into a blood vessel. This tube has pores, and nutrients easily permeate it without disturbing blood circulation. At the same time, the material grafted in a patient effectively supports the affected pancreas. In most cases, patients immediately obviate the necessity to inject full doses of insulin, as it may be cut three times. Sometimes patients do not need insulin at all.
The method did not remain on paper, but has been introduced into practice: a total of 18 operations have been successfully performed. But scientists still believe it would be much better to graft human cells instead of animal cells.
Belarus may be able to resolve this problem in the near future, Professor Tretyak believes. Cell technologies is one of the key priorities of Belarus´ healthcare for the years to come, which is why scientists receive any sort of support they need: Minsk´s 9th clinic will soon have a large laboratory to raise human cells for medical needs.
When we have this laboratory, we will be able to carry out operations of the kind in many clinics of the country, the scientist said. "We have developed three variants of surgeries depending on local vascular surgery facilities. The transplantation of islet cells will cease being a problem for surgeons operating on major vessels."
Another significant fact is that this unique approach that may drastically change the lives of hundreds of thousands is based on brand new theories, which have not gone unobserved by the world science.
"After operations of the kind immunosuppressive actions are taken as part of the usual procedure, in other words, medics suppress the patient´s immunity to protect the grafted cells," Stanislav Tretyak said, "which is quite dangerous for diabetes sufferers, as the medicines are highly toxic and may affect immunity, while our technology allows giving up this threatening therapy.
This method is clearly "doomed" to success: in Belarus alone more than 70,000 people suffer from diabetes.
"Not only Belarusians, but also foreigners may need our help,"
Stanislav Tretyak says. "People come from the Baltic States, Russia, last year we performed an operation on a U.S. citizen."
The technologies developed by the Belarusian team have become well-known in many countries. The Belarusian scientists closely cooperate with their colleagues from Germany´s Lubeck; the Belarusians presented their developments in Hamburg. The scientific works of Tretyak´s team have been approved for publishing in Russia´s major journals.
There is always room for perfection and development: the Belarusian specialists are capable of growing cells of thyroid gland. They are now getting ready for growing and grafting nerve cells to deal with disseminated sclerosis and many other disorders. Moreover, specialists assume they may raise cells of the pituitary body. The only thing that scientists need is time.