New islet cell transplant may free diabetics from painful insulin injections

Washington: Researchers have revealed that islet transplantation can produce substantially improved results for patients with type 1 diabetes, as it helps increase levels of insulin production to the degree that patients are able to discontinue daily insulin injections.

In islet transplantation, clusters of insulin-producing cells known as islets are transplanted from a donor pancreas into another person's liver, while allowing the harvested cells a short period of rest prior to transplant.

The study found that the new approach may also offer a more durable alternative to a whole pancreas transplant.

Participants in the new study by researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania received islet cells isolated from the pancreas of organ donors to help their bodies produce insulin, the life-sustaining hormone responsible for absorbing glucose from the blood.

In the study, investigators used an advanced technique to isolate and harvest islet cells from donor pancreases. Unlike prior methods in which isolated islet cells were immediately transferred to the recipient, the new technique allowed the extracted cells to rest in a controlled environment for three days prior to transplant.

Ultimately, the resting period also resulted in a more efficient process by allowing investigators to use fewer islet cells than previous methods which required cells from two or more donor pancreases achieve similar results. Despite fewer islet cells being transplanted, the new approach resulted in significantly improved islet cell function.

The study is published in the journal Diabetes.