Pancreatic islet transplantation is an experimental treatment for poorly controlled type 1 diabetes. Pancreatic islets are clusters of cells in the pancreas that make the hormone insulin. In type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system attacks these cells. A pancreatic islet transplant replaces destroyed islets with new ones that make and release insulin. This procedure takes islets from the pancreas of an organ donor and transfers them to a person with type 1 diabetes. Because researchers are still studying pancreatic islet transplantation, the procedure is only available to people enrolled in research studies. Learn more about islet transplantation studies.
Type 1 diabetes is commonly called “juvenile diabetes” because it tends to develop at a younger age, typically before a person turns 20 years old. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. The damage to the pancreatic cells leads to a reduced ability or complete inability to create insulin. Some of the common causes that trigger this autoimmune response may include a virus, genetically modified organisms, heavy metals, vaccines, or foods like wheat, cow’s milk and soy. (4)
Currently, one goal for diabetics is to avoid or minimize chronic diabetic complications, as well as to avoid acute problems of hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia. Adequate control of diabetes leads to lower risk of complications associated with unmonitored diabetes including kidney failure (requiring dialysis or transplant), blindness, heart disease and limb amputation. The most prevalent form of medication is hypoglycemic treatment through either oral hypoglycemics and/or insulin therapy. There is emerging evidence that full-blown diabetes mellitus type 2 can be evaded in those with only mildly impaired glucose tolerance.
Robert Ferry Jr., MD, is a U.S. board-certified Pediatric Endocrinologist. After taking his baccalaureate degree from Yale College, receiving his doctoral degree and residency training in pediatrics at University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA), he completed fellowship training in pediatric endocrinology at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.