Australian doctors have successfully transplanted insulin-producing islet cells in a woman. The operation was carried out at St. Vincent's Hospital, Melbourne in collaboration with St Vincent's Institute of Medical Research (SVI).
This new type of transplant surgery will help people with a severe form of type 1 (juvenile) diabetes.
Funded by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) and the Australian Department of Health and Ageing, the ITP aims to take islet transplantation from an experimental procedure to a real clinical option for Australians with type 1 diabetes. The ITP is a consortium involving St. Vincent's and Austin Health in Melbourne, Westmead Hospital in Sydney and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Adelaide.
JDRF Australia CEO, Mike Wilson says: "Elaine is producing significant amounts of her own insulin for the first time in over 25 years. This is an incredibly exciting step forward for both the type 1 diabetes community and for the world-class Australian researchers that are rapidly advancing in this area."
Professor Tom Kay, Head of the Tom Mandel Islet Transplant Program at St. Vincent's says: "Islet cell transplantation has only been reliable and viable in the last few years due to major scientific advances."
"The recipient received the islets at St. Vincent's Hospital as a transfusion under local anaesthetic using ultrasound to guide the needle. Since the procedure she has had substantial reduction in her insulin treatment and markers of diabetes control have improved. A second infusion of islet cells is planned to further reduce her insulin requirements, hopefully to the point where insulin injections are no longer required. She will need to take immunosuppressive drugs indefinitely to suppress transplant rejection."
"Islet transplantation is limited by a severe shortage of pancreas donors and we encourage everyone to consider declaring themselves a potential donor".
"At present, the function of the transplant usually decreases over several years which is a major focus of current research. With ongoing research and innovation, islet transplantation could pave the way for other forms of cellular treatments for diabetes," says Professor Kay.