Back to Research News The Edmonton Protocol for Islet Transplants

The Edmonton Protocol for Islet Transplants

During the Transplant 2000 Scientific Program, held in Chicago from May 13-17, 2000, a team from the Alberta Foundation for Diabetes Research reported its success in transplanting human islets into patients with Type 1 diabetes and effectively curing them of the disease. The team in Alberta is the first to succeed in transplanting donor islets into the livers of patients with diabetes through a relatively easy out-patient procedure. Their process is called the Edmonton Protocol.

Key to the success is the use of immunosuppressant drugs (Rapamune) that eliminate the need to use steroids, which can destroy islet cells. Islet cell recipients are still required to take immunosuppressants, however.

The success of the Alberta team is encouraging. However, the number of people who can be helped is limited by the supply of donor pancreases. Two pancreases are needed to provide enough islets to treat one person with Type 1 diabetes, and at present only cadaver pancreases are used. Increasing awareness about the importance of organ donation can help increase the number of people who can be helped. Dr. James Shapiro, responsible for clinical trials at the Alberta Foundation, is hopeful that through genetic engineering, islets can be cloned to meet future needs.

While this news is exciting, it is one study of a small group of adults with Type 1 diabetes, all of whom are required to take immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of their life. More studies are needed, both to prove the efficacy of the procedure and to determine the side effects of the drugs before children with diabetes would be able to benefit.

Islet Transplantation Centers

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Posted May 19, 2000
Updated September 26, 2004

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