A new way of treating all forms of severity of Diabetes type 1 is making waves in the health and medical community; the Pancreatic Langerhans Cell Transplant. The thinking is simple and elegant; the transplant of beta cell islets that are active in insulin production would greatly benefit diabetic patients whose own pancreas has been compromised and no longer produces adequate amounts of insulin.
The benefits of cell transplant technology for Diabetics are quite numerous. Normally, a person with Diabetes Type 1 will receive warnings from the body in the form of physical tell-tale signs such as perspiration, cardiac palpitations, and involuntary muscle contractions as a normal response when glucose available to tissue has been depleted. So, when a Diabetic type 1 person shows the above signs, they know to eat something so as to meet the immediate glucose requirements of the body. The problem is, after a while some patients no longer feel the foreshadowing symptoms (hypoglycemic unawareness) and thus are in greater peril since they are not alerted the bodily yearning for replenishment.
There are 2 types of pancreatic beta cell islets transplants:
– Auto-transplantation: In this type, the entire pancreatic organ is extracted and segregated from Langerhans islet cells. These cells are then purified and put back in to the patient where they shortly undergo insulin production. However, this option is not available for diabetes type 1 patients since researchers have not been able to overcome the immune response. Pancreatic cell auto-transplantation actually induces Diabetes and is specifically intended as a last resort attempt at treating severe and chronic forms of pancreatitis that have alluded medication and other forms of treatment. Insulin dependency is the likely outcome.
Allo-transplantation: Refers to the cleansing and purification of pancreatic cell islets from a departed person and transplanted into a different person. The average amount of transplanted Langerhans cells are between 400,000 – 500,000 cells. A Radiologist is the one commonly performing this procedure by using an X-ray and ultrasound machine to lead a catheter into the superior portion of the abdomen and through the hepatic portal vein for steady islet cell infusion. This is the practicing and experimental option of choice for Diabetes type 1 patients. However, only specific hospitals have been granted approval by the FDA for such a procedure due to its incomplete (but very promising) research and standards of application.
The next scientific objective in the future of pancreatic cell transplant technology is to standardize the methodology used to choose and refine the donated cell islets. As researchers use different ways to make this happen, the closer they bring us to figuring out which way works the most desirably. In the meantime, the more experimental forms are being practiced in a few select hospitals in the U.S.
As with virtually any transplant, there is the susceptibility of the body to actively shun the new foreign tissue. For this reason, current practice dictates that the patient be prescribed immuno-suppressing drugs for life. There is also the risk of infection though that is easier to manage and prevent. Lastly, healthy pancreatic tissue are in high demand with limited availability. Because of this, scientists are trying to increase supply by experimenting with animal islet tissue in order to be able to bring this new and hopefully therapeutic technique into the mainstream treatment of Diabetes type 1.