Skip to content

Diabetes Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

Islet Cell Transplantation for the Treatment of Diabetes

In islet cell transplantation, beta cells are removed from a donor's pancreas and transferred into a person with diabetes. Beta cells are one type of cell found in the islets of the pancreas and produce insulin, which regulates blood sugar levels. Once transplanted, the donor islets begin to make and release insulin.

Recommended Related to Diabetes

Medications to Treat Diabetic Nerve Pain

Diabetes is a lifelong companion. Sometimes a complication like diabetic nerve pain takes time to resolve, and you may want to try different treatments and medications before finding one that works for you. First, make sure you're doing the best job you can of controlling your blood sugar, exercising regularly, and keeping your weight normal. If you still have pain, numbness, or discomfort in your feet or hands (called peripheral neuropathy), you may need to turn to medications to soothe your...

Read the Medications to Treat Diabetic Nerve Pain article > >

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 resume their role of releasing insulin to maintain normal blood sugar levels in response to food, exercise, and other changes in the body.

Successful islet cell transplantation can provide the following benefits:

  • Restore or improve the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels. The need for frequent blood sugar measurements and daily insulin injections can be reduced, and in a minority of patients, eliminated three years after transplantation. Although being free from insulin injections may only last several months or a year, islet cell transplantation reduces episodes of low blood sugar for a longer time.
  • Improve the quality of life.
  • Reduce the progression of 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 all organ and tissue transplants, rejection of the donor cells is the greatest challenge. The immune system serves to protect the body from "invading" substances that do not belong -- bacteria and viruses, for example. Even though the transplanted islet cells are beneficial, 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 for Diabetes?

Scientists developed the procedure for transplanting islet cells to treat diabetes in the 1960s. The first transplantation attempts, which began in the 1990s, 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.

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

Diabetic tools
Symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and more.
woman flexing muscles
10 strength training exercises.
 
Blood sugar test
12 practical tips.
Tom Hanks
Stars living with type 1 or type 2.
 
kenneth fujioka, md
Video
Can Vinegar Treat Diabetes
Article
 
Middle aged person
Tool
Home Healthcare
Video
 

Prediabetes How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Article
type 2 diabetes
Slideshow
 
food fitness planner
Tool
feet
Slideshow