Diabetes Type I...Insulin Therapy (cont.)
Transplantation is not without risk. Both the surgery itself and the immunosuppression that must occur afterwards pose significant risks to the patient. For these reasons, the kidney and pancreas are usually transplanted at the same time. At present, there is disagreement about whole pancreas transplantation in patients not currently requiring kidney transplantation. The issue of whether the benefits outweigh the risks in these patients is under debate. There is also a chance that diabetes will occur in the transplanted pancreas. Selectively transplanting islet cells is an interesting alternative to whole pancreas transplantation. However, the concern over rejection remains. Attempts to disguise the islet cells in tissues that the body won't reject (for example, by surrounding the islet cells by the patient's own cells and then implanting them) are underway. In addition, researchers are exploring artificial barriers that can surround the islet cells, provide protection against rejection, and still allow insulin to enter the bloodstream.
The next few years promise to be an exciting time in diabetes care. The options for insulin therapy continue to grow and methods for insulin delivery continue to become more refined. While research continues to expand in this area, one thing remains constant. Achieving the best blood sugar control possible remains the ultimate goal. We now know, beyond a doubt, that good blood sugar control minimizes the long-term complications of diabetes, including blindness, nerve damage, and kidney damage. While insulin therapy is a necessity for patients with type 1 diabetes, it can also give patients the opportunity for healthy and productive lives.
Last Editorial Review: 4/25/2005