People develop type 1 diabetes because they are unable to produce the hormone insulin. Insulin is made by cells called Langerhans - or 'islets'. Islet cells produce insulin when blood glucose levels in the body are high, bringing them down again and stop producing insulin when the blood glucose levels are low.
Islet cell transplantation involves extracting islet cells from the pancreas of a deceased donor and implanting them in the liver of someone with type 1 diabetes. First, islets are extracted from someone who has died and given consent for their organs to be used for transplantation. If this produces a suitable number of good quality islets, they can be offered to someone in need of a transplant.
DRWF has made a significant commitment to Islet Cell Research and Transplant both in the UK and around the world.
In 2004, we made an unprecedented grant to the Nuffield Department of Surgery at the Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, for the provision of a Human Islet Isolation Facility.
The DRWF Human Islet Isolation Facility was launched in 2006 at the Churchill Hospital, Oxford. Housed within the Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism (OCDEM), this facility harvests insulin producing islet cells from donor pancreas for research and transplant. It plays a pivotal role in the supply of islets within the UK Islet Transplant Consortium (UKITC) for the delivery of an NHS funded national therapy for the treatment of type 1 diabetes.
Although only a small number of people can currently benefit from an islet cell transplant, it is our hope that research will continue to refine and improve current processes to enable it to become more widely available as a treatment option in future years.
‘Islet Cell Transplants – What you need to know’ is a patient document written by experts from within the UK Islet Transplant Consortium and made available as part of a national awareness campaign.