University of Miami doctors spared wounded airman Tre Porfirio a lifetime of severe diabetes with a first-of-its-kind emergency cell transplant from his own bullet-riddled kidney. Porfirio had been shot in the back in Afghanistan, forcing Walter Reed’s doctors to remove much of his stomach and intestines. They had planned to rebuild his abdominal structure, until they realized that his pancreas was completely ruined, and without it he’d face crippling, life-threatening diabetes, reports the Miami Herald.
So in an apparent first, they flew the pancreas to the University of Miami, where diabetes researchers salvaged its remaining insulin-producing cells. It then shipped them back to Walter Reed where they were implanted in Porfirio’s liver. There, they’ve already begun producing insulin again. Similar procedures have been done before, but never under emergency conditions, and usually with organs from cadaver donors, which means recipients must take anti-rejection drugs. Now doctors think the procedure could become “an unlimited cure available to everyone.” (Read more pancreas stories.)