Human islet transplantation: lessons from 13 autologous and 13 allogeneic transplantations

Transplantation. 2000 Mar 27;69(6):1115-23. doi: 10.1097/00007890-200003270-00016.


Background: A series of 13 islet autotransplantations and 13 islet allotransplantations performed between 1992 and 1999 at the University Hospital of Geneva are presented. Factors affecting the outcome are analyzed.

Methods: Islet autotransplantation has been performed in seven patients with chronic pancreatitis and in six patients with benign tumors undergoing extensive pancreatectomy. Islet allografts were performed in C-peptide-negative patients simultaneously or after a kidney or lung transplantation. Each recipient received islets from one to four donors. Panel-reactive antibodies were monitored by microlymphocytotoxicity test.

Results: Eleven of 13 patients who underwent autotransplantation maintained insulin independence for 6 months to 5 years. Two years after autologous islet transplantation, five of nine patients were insulin independent with an glycosylated hemoglobin of 5.9%. Three late islet failures occurred in patients with chronic pancreatitis. Islet yield was significantly lower in patients with chronic pancreatitis than in patients with benign tumors (2044 equivalent islet number/gram resected pancreas versus 5184 equivalent islet number/gram; P=0.037). In islet allotransplantation, no early graft loss was found. All 13 patients who underwent allotransplantation had basal C-peptide levels above 0.3 nmol/L for 3 months to 5 years. Mean glycosylated hemoglobin decreased from 9.1% before transplantation to 5.5% at month 3. Insulin independence was achieved in two type I diabetic patients. In four of six patients with graft failure, the graft had induced panel-reactive antibodies.

Conclusions: In islet autotransplantation, the reduced number of islets that can be isolated from fibrotic pancreata may be the major limiting factor. In islet allotransplantation, early graft function can now be consistently achieved. Islet allografts seem to be highly immunogenic, and chronic islet failure cannot be prevented consistently by conventional immunosuppression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Autoimmunity / physiology
  • Biopsy
  • C-Peptide / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / surgery
  • Glucagon / administration & dosage
  • Graft Rejection / etiology
  • Graft Survival / physiology
  • Humans
  • Islets of Langerhans Transplantation*
  • Liver / pathology
  • Pancreatectomy
  • Transplantation, Autologous
  • Transplantation, Homologous / immunology


  • C-Peptide
  • Glucagon