Cell Transplant, New Hope for Diabetes

Diabetes is a condition that affects nearly 26 million Americans. Many patients live with it from year to year, but it is a slow killer. It is the either the sole cause of death or a contributor in hundreds of thousands of deaths per year. However, there is protocol that doctors have been working on that may improve these statistics for those with type 1 diabetes. An islet cell transplant from the pancreas of a donor may be able to help those with type 1 diabetes live without needing insulin injections.

Islet Cell Transplant

 Cell Transplant

Dr. Shapiro

Islet cells are cells located in the pancreas that produce both insulin and glucagon. Both these hormones aid in controlling glucose levels.  Islet cells are taken directly from a donor pancreas after isolating and purifying them in the pancreas. The islet cells then have a “rest period” of just a couple days before being placed in the pancreas of the diabetic patient. This cell transplant is known as the Edmonton Protocol. It was coined the Edmonton Protocol by Dr. Shapiro from the University of Alberta.

After the islet cell transplant, the patient must take immunosuppresants to ensure that the immune system does not send white blood cells to attack the foreign cells. These anti-rejection drugs must be taken for the rest of the patients life.  Patients will still want to wear their glucose monitor just to ensure that everything is going as planned.

This procedure is not yet FDA approved in the United States, however, it has been successful in other countries, including Canada. Doctor’s are currently running trials on this protocol as approved by the FDA for a private study. These studies have shown that patients are likely to need two cell transplants in order to stay away from insulin injections long term. Studies also show that patients who receive these cell transplants can live anywhere from five to ten good years before needing more insulin. With only one islet cell transplant, patients have only been able to last one year before needing more insulin.

One patient of the islet cell transplant in the United States, Michael Schofield, raves about his transplant and its  effectiveness. It has given him a new life, one with less worry and stress. He is trying to spread the word about islet cell transplants and trying to get the FDA to approve the Edmonton Protocol in the United States. Dr. Andrew Posselt with the Pancreatic Islet Cell Transplant Program at The University of California San Fransico echoes Schofield’s pleas saying, “People need to be aware that this is an effective alternative treatment,” Also, “Funding is very difficult to get for this kind of procedure in the U.S.; as a result, we’re falling behind other countries.”

Islet cell transplants, although not yet FDA approved, have the capability of changing the life of so many who suffer from type one diabetes. For help managing your diabetes, visit Care Club.

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