- Islet Cell Transplantation for the Treatment of Diabetes Center
- Type 1 Diabetes: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment
- Take the Diabetes Quiz!
- Avoid Diabetes Complications
- Islet cell transplantation introduction
- What are the benefits of islet cell transplantation?
- What are the risks of islet cell transplantation?
- How successful is islet cell transplantation?
- Can anyone with diabetes get an islet cell transplant?
- Can islet cell transplantation be done at any hospital?
- What is the future for islet cell transplantation research?
Islet Cell Transplantation Introduction
In islet cell transplantation, insulin-producing beta cells are taken from a donor's pancreas and transferred into a person with diabetes. Once transplanted, the donor islets begin to make and release insulin, actively regulating the level of sugar in the blood.
What Are the Benefits of Islet Cell Transplantation?
A successful islet cell transplant can significantly improve the quality of life for a person with diabetes.
Once transplanted, the islet cells automatically monitor sugar in the body and can regulate insulin levels by delivering the appropriate amounts needed to normalize blood sugar levels, even as the body's needs change (for example, after exercising or eating).
Successful islet cell transplantation can provide the following benefits:
- It can eliminate the need for frequent blood sugar measurements and the need for daily insulin injections. Although only a few people are completely free of insulin injections a year after transplantation.
- It can provide more flexibility with meal planning.
- It can help protect against the serious long-term complications of diabetes, including heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, and nerve and eye damage.
What Are the Risks of Islet Cell Transplantation?
As with any organ or tissue transplant, rejection of the donor cells is the greatest challenge in those with diabetes. The immune system serves to protect the body from "invading" substances that do not belong -- bacteria and viruses, for example. Even when needed donor tissue is transplanted, the recipient's immune system recognizes it as "foreign" and tries to destroy it. This attack on the donor tissue is called "rejection."
All transplant recipients must take, for the rest of their life, strong drugs to suppress the immune response and prevent rejection. Many of these drugs have serious side effects. The long-term effects of these immunosuppressive or anti-rejection drugs are not yet known, but it is suspected that they may increase the risk of cancer.
How Successful Is Islet Cell Transplantation?
Scientists developed the procedure for transplanting islet cells to treat diabetes in the 1960's. The first transplantation attempts, which began in the 1990's, succeeded only 8% of the time, which was attributed to the fact that anti-rejection drugs available at the time interfered with insulin's effectiveness.
But in 1999, a clinical trial conducted at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, brought new hope. Using enhanced techniques to collect and prepare the extremely fragile donor islet cells, as well as using improved anti-rejection drugs, the researchers achieved a 100% success rate. All of the patients in their trial were freed from the need for insulin for at least one month. The process followed by the researchers -- dubbed the "Edmonton Protocol" -- is still being studied in clinical trials around the world.
Can Anyone With Diabetes Get an Islet Cell Transplant?
Typically, candidates for islet cell transplantation are between the ages of 18 and 65, have had type 1 diabetes for more than 5 years, and are experiencing diabetes-related complications such as frequent periods of unconsciousness due to lack of insulin and early signs of kidney problems that could lead to kidney failure.
Can Islet Cell Transplantation Be Done at any Hospital?
Because it is still considered an experimental therapy, islet cell transplantation for diabetes is not widely available. There are currently 17 U.S. centers participating in islet cell research programs. The American Diabetes Association recommends that pancreas or islet cell transplantation be performed only in these major centers, which are best equipped to handle the complex and long-term medical and personal needs of transplant patients.
What Is the Future for Islet Cell Transplantation Research?
There are two main areas of focus in islet cell transplantation research:
- Collecting enough islet cells to do the transplant: Obtaining enough islet cells for transplantation is a major challenge. Typically, about 1 million islet cells are needed, which is equivalent to two donor pancreases. Because the need surpasses the number of human donors available, researchers are studying the use of cells from other sources, including fetal tissue and animals such as pigs. Researchers are also attempting to grow human islet cells in the laboratory.
- Preventing rejection: Researchers continuously seek to develop new and better anti-rejection drugs. Many advances have been made in anti-rejection drugs over the past 15 years. Newer drugs -- such as tacrolimus (FK506) and rapamycin -- have fewer and less harmful side effects than some older drugs like cyclosporine and prednisone.
Researchers are also working to develop methods of transplanting islet cells that will reduce or eliminate the risk of rejection and the need for immunosuppression. One approach involves coating the islet cells with a special gel that prevents the immune system from recognizing and targeting the donor cells.
WebMD Medical Reference
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Reviewed by John A. Seibel, MD on March 08, 2009
Top Islet Cell Transplantation Related Articles
Contraceptive Measures after Unprotected SexContraceptive birth control measures after unprotected sex include: emergency hormonal contraception (the morning after pill), and emergency IUD. The morning after pill is not meant to be a long-term contraception. Once the emergency is over, a woman should consult with her physician so that an appropriate contraceptive method can be chosen if the woman continues to be sexually active. The emergency IUD can provide a woman with long-term contraception. Emergency IUD insertion does however, increase the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
Diabetes (Type 1 and Type 2)Diabetes is a chronic condition characterized by high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood. The two types of diabetes are referred to as type 1 (insulin dependent) and type 2 (non-insulin dependent). Symptoms of diabetes include increased urine output, thirst, hunger, and fatigue. Treatment of diabetes depends on the type.
Diabetes Treatment: Medication, Diet, and Insulin
The major goal in treating diabetes is controlling elevated blood sugar without causing abnormally low levels of blood sugar. Type 1 diabetes is treated with:
- and a diabetic diet.
Type 2 diabetes is first treated with:
- weight reduction,
- a diabetic diet,
- and exercise.
When these measures fail to control the elevated blood sugar, oral medications are used. If oral medications are still insufficient, insulin medications are considered.
Sex, Urinary, and Bladder Problems of DiabetesHaving diabetes can mean early onset and increased severity of bladder symptoms (urinary incontinence and urinary tract infections) and changes in sexual function. Men may have erectile dysfunction; and women may have problems with sexual response and vaginal lubrication. Keep your diabetes under control, and you can lower your risk of sexual and urologic problems.
Questions To Ask Before SurgerySurgery is the branch of medicine that employs operations in the treatment of disease or injury. Prior to surgery you might consider asking your surgeon questions about the operation (procedure).
The Digestion Process (Parts, Organs, and Functions)Digestion is the complex process of turning the food you eat into the energy you need to survive. The digestive process also involves creating waste to be eliminated, and is made of a series of muscles that coordinate the movement of food. Learn more about digestion and the body parts that make it possible, including the mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon, rectum, anus, pancreas, liver, and gallbladder.
Type 1 DiabetesWhat is type 1 diabetes? Is there a cure for type 1 diabetes? Learn about type 1 diabetes symptoms, warning signs, causes, and treatments.
Type 1 vs. Type 2 Diabetes: Differences
Diabetes mellitus is a metabolic condition in which a person's blood sugar (glucose) levels are too high. Over 29.1 million children and adults in the US have diabetes. Of that, 8.1 million people have diabetes and don't even know it. Type 1 diabetes (insulin-dependent, juvenile) is caused by a problem with insulin production by the pancreas. Type 2 diabetes (non-insulin dependent) is caused by:
Eating a lot of foods and drinking beverages with simple carbohydrates (pizza, white breads, pastas, cereals, pastries, etc.) and simple sugars (donuts, candy, etc.)
- Consuming too many products with artificial sweeteners (We found out that they are bad for us!)
- Lack of activity
While the signs and symptoms of both types of diabetes are the same, which include:
- Increased urination
- Increased hunger
- Increased thirst
- Unexplained weight loss.
However, the treatments are different. Type 1 diabetes is insulin dependent, which means a person with this type of diabetes requires treatment with insulin. People with type 2 diabetes require medication, lifestyle changes like eating a healthy diet, and getting regular exercise.
What Are Immunosuppressive Drugs?Immunosuppression compromises the immune system’s ability to fight infection. Organ transplant patients take immunosuppressive drugs to prevent the rejection of the transplanted organ (graft) by their own body’s immune system. The immune system considers the transplanted organ’s tissues as foreign bodies and attacks them, leading to organ rejection.