Islet Transplant - University of Minnesota Medical Center
 
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Islet Transplant

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There are about one million people in the United States who have type 1 diabetes. About 30 to 50 percent of them will have some complication of diabetes during their lifetime. These can include eye, nerve, and kidney disease, as well as the inability to detect when blood glucose (sugar) levels are getting too low. 
In 1994, the University of Minnesota established a diabetes institute to pursue a cure for diabetes. Today, the Schulze Diabetes Institute, together with University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview, is one of the leading centers studying the transplantation of islets of Langerhans (cells that produce insulin) as a way to cure type 1 diabetes. Bernhard Hering, MD, heads the Shulze Diabetes Institute's Islet Transplant Program and is widely regarded as the world's foremost expert on islet transplantation.

At present, only patients who are eligible for a clinical trial can have an islet transplant at University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview. But for many of them, the procedure has been life changing. Some have even been able to stop using insulin altogether for five years or longer.

If you have had type 1 diabetes for a number of years, you may lose the early symptoms of low blood glucose such as sweating, dizziness and extreme hunger that warn you that your blood glucose level is too low. This inability to sense a low blood glucose is called hypoglycemia unawareness. It raises the risk of severe hypoglycemia (blood glucose lows). When this occurs, you often need help from someone else to help you raise your blood glucose such as giving you juice, soda pop or a glucagon injection.

Currently, the only way to restore normal blood glucose levels in people with type 1 diabetes (without the risk of low blood sugar) is to replace their islets. Only a pancreas transplant or an islet transplant can replace the islets. If you experience severe hypoglycemia, you may be eligible to participate in an islet transplant clinical trial. View our Islet Cell Transplant Clinical Research Program fact sheet (PDF).

What are the benefits of islet transplantation?
Insulin therapy, whether by injection or insulin pump, is life-saving. However, insulin therapy is not perfect. Most people with type 1 diabetes still have blood glucose levels that are above normal, putting them at risk for long-term complications of diabetes. Patients able to keep their blood glucose levels near normal often have trouble with low blood glucose (hypoglycemia).

The possible advantage of islet transplantation over giving insulin via injections or pump is that the transplanted islets may maintain normal blood sugar under all conditions. Also, they would not produce excess insulin which can result in low blood glucose.

The goal of an islet transplant is the safe and effective treatment of type 1 diabetes. Although islet transplants have been performed in clinical trials for years, they are not yet considered standard medical care. Continuing clinical trials are needed to further improve the success rate of islet transplantation.

What is exciting is that the outcomes of islet transplant clinical trials keep significantly improving over the years. For some patients, islet transplant can restore the role of the pancreas. Unlike a pancreas transplant, islet transplant does not require major surgery.

The islet transplant procedure requires only a local anesthetic and takes about 60 minutes. The islets are injected into the liver where they secrete insulin directly into the circulatory system to control blood glucose.

For more information about the islet transplant clinical study visit the Schulze Diabetes Institute Web site.


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Fairview features nearly 4,000 providers practicing at over 200 locations throughout the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area and beyond. Fairview Clinics, University of Minnesota Physicians and our independent partner clinics provide an exceptional care experience, while lowering the overall costs of health care.

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Our Providers Make the Difference
Fairview features nearly 4,000 providers practicing at over 200 locations throughout the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area and beyond. Fairview Clinics, University of Minnesota Physicians and our independent partner clinics provide an exceptional care experience, while lowering the overall costs of health care.

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