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Islet Transplantation Faces Serious Challenges

Very few patients remain insulin independent beyond 4 years after transplantation. Islet transplantation represents a most impressive recent advance in the search for a type 1 diabetes mellitus cure. While several hundred patients have achieved at least temporary insulin independence after receiving the islet "mini-organs" (containing insulin-producing ß cells), very few patients remain insulin independent beyond 4 years after transplantation.

Worldwide, more than 750 individuals with type 1 diabetes mellitus have received allogeneic islet transplants since 1974, in an effort to cure their chronic condition. Though this is still a small number, much has been learned, especially since the promising results of the Edmonton group were published in 2000

The initial enthusiasm over the observation that islet transplantation can restore insulin-independent euglycemia to patients with long-standing T1DM has been dampened by complications associated with the procedure itself and the immunosuppression necessary to prevent rejection of the transplanted islets, as well as by the gradual loss of islet function and other problems arising from the placement of allogeneic islets in the liver

J. Clin. Invest. 114:877-883 (2004).

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