People to Know 2013: Tom Cartier
In type 1 diabetes, the insulin-producing clusters of cells known as islets are damaged—leading to the loss of insulin. In recent years, a lucky few have received islet transplants, restoring insulin production in people with type 1. While human islet transplants are an effective treatment for a very small number of people, one barrier is the limited amount of tissue available from donors. That's why I was excited to hear about Tom Cartier's plans to breed pigs to increase the amount of porcine tissue available for transplant. While xenotransplantation—in which tissue is shared between different species—comes with a few barriers of its own, Tom is committed to overcoming them.
He's assembled a passionate team of scientists and clinicians to establish the Spring Point Project, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit organization. Their goal is to produce pathogen-free pigs, which won't have bacteria or viruses that could harm a patient, to provide tissue for islet transplants. Tom has the conviction and vision to push research forward as a very interested party: His son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes 20 years ago, at the age of 10. The project is full of potential, and I eagerly anticipate news of their milestones in the near future.
Jason Turner received islet transplants in 2005 and in 2007 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, as a participant in a research study.