The University of Illinois at Chicago is one of 11 centers in the United States, Canada, Sweden and Norway to participate in the Clinical Islet Transplant Consortium funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Consortium researchers have begun clinical studies to test new approaches to islet transplantation that may lead to improved outcomes and fewer side effects for adults with difficult-to-control type 1 diabetes.
Patients with type 1 diabetes depend on multiple daily insulin injections or an insulin pump because their own immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. They often develop life-threatening complications, including damage to the heart and blood vessels, eyes, nerves and kidneys.
Islet transplantation offers the most promise for achieving insulin independence, glucose control and freedom from hypoglycemic attacks for type 1 diabetics, says Dr. José Oberholzer, principal investigator and director of cell and pancreas transplantation at UIC.
"This research will help us find the most effective combination of anti-rejection drugs to maximize islet engraftment while reducing toxic side effects," said Oberholzer.
"The ultimate goal is to refine islet transplantation and generate an unlimited supply of islets so that many more people would benefit from this treatment," he said.
Islet transplantation involves isolating islets from a donor pancreas and infusing the cells into the main blood vessel in the patient's liver. If the transplant is successful, the islets lodge in the small blood vessels of the liver and begin producing insulin. Patients must take drugs to suppress their immune system and prevent rejection of the islets. In some cases, patients require more than one infusion of donor islets to produce enough insulin.
At UIC, patients will be enrolled in three protocols to evaluate a combination of different medications to protect the newly transplanted islet cells.
Eligible patients must be between the ages of 18 and 65, diagnosed before age 40, and insulin-dependent for more than five years. Type 1 diabetes patients who have had a kidney transplant and are taking immunosuppressive drugs may also be eligible.
For more information about the Clinical Islet Transplant Consortium studies, call UIC at (312) 996-6087 or visit www.citisletstudy.org/index.html
UIC is also a National Institutes of Health Islet Cell Resource Center, one of seven federally funded centers in the United States to provide researchers across the country with human pancreatic islet cells for transplantation into diabetic patients and provide cells for basic science research.
For more information about UIC, visit www.uic.edu