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Pancreas and Islet Transplants in Type 1 Diabetes

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Pancreas and Islet Transplants in Type 1 Diabetes

By Nina Nazor
The risks of pancreas and islet transplantation

Pancreas transplantation may be effective in improving the quality of life of people with type 1 diabetes who have dangerous episodes of hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia and ketoacidosis. Pancreas transplantation eliminates the need to stick to a strict diet, taking insulin and checking blood glucose daily.

However, pancreas and pancreas-only transplants, as well as islet transplants, require lifelong immunosuppression to prevent rejection and recurrence of the autoimmune process that could destroy again the insulin-producing cells.

Therefore, pancreas transplantation should be considered only for people with end-stage renal disease who have had or plan to have a kidney transplant.

On the other hand, the transplants of pancreatic islets containing beta cells, which produce insulin, are a better option than whole-gland transplants but also require immunosuppression.

In conclusion, the recommendation from the American Diabetes Association is that pancreas and pancreatic islets transplantation may be indicated when the person is about to die from renal disease, in that case, kidney and pancreas transplant can save her or his life and improve greatly their quality of life while “curing diabetes”, but at the expense of having to take drugs that suppress the immune system forever.

Source: Pancreas and Islet Transplantation in Type 1 Diabetes. Position Statement. American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Care 29:935, 2006