Islet Cell Transplant…

Islet cells are found in the pancreas. They are composed of alpha and beta cells. The beta cells are those that make insulin and help us properly use glucose for energy. With Type 1 diabetes the beta cells no longer make insulin. There is a new experimental treatment in which healthy beta cells from a donor are transplanted to a patient with Type 1 diabetes. The hope is, in the future, a person with Type 1 diabetes will be able to make their own insulin and not rely on taking daily injections. At present transplants are available in Canada, United Kingdom and Australia. This is still in the experimental stages in the US because of concerns about its effectiveness as well as the possibility of rejection. In a recent study performed by The National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Disease, 43 participants who had highly unmanageable Type 1 diabetes received the transplant. One year later 43% of the participants still did not need to take insulin. The new transplanted islet cells are infused into the bloodstream where they find their new home in the liver instead of the pancreas which decreases the possibility of complications. At present the cells last 3 to 5 years and the recipient must take immune suppressing drugs just like any donor recipient. It does however open the possibility of a more carefree life for a person who must be at all times aware of their blood sugar levels. These transplants are getting more and more refined.