Background: Registry data on patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus who undergo pancreatic islet transplantation indicate that only 8 percent are free of the need for insulin therapy at one year.
Methods: Seven consecutive patients with type 1 diabetes and a history of severe hypoglycemia and metabolic instability underwent islet transplantation in conjunction with a glucocorticoid-free immunosuppressive regimen consisting of sirolimus, tacrolimus, and daclizumab. Islets were isolated by ductal perfusion with cold, purified collagenase, digested and purified in xenoprotein-free medium, and transplanted immediately by means of a percutaneous transhepatic portal embolization.
Results: All seven patients quickly attained sustained insulin independence after transplantation of a mean (+/-SD) islet mass of 11,547+/-1604 islet equivalents per kilogram of body weight (median follow-up, 11.9 months; range, 4.4 to 14.9). All recipients required islets from two donor pancreases, and one required a third transplant from two donors to achieve sustained insulin independence. The mean glycosylated hemoglobin values were normal after transplantation in all recipients. The mean amplitude of glycemic excursions (a measure of fluctuations in blood glucose concentrations) was significantly decreased after the attainment of insulin independence (from 198+/-32 mg per deciliter [11.1+/-1.8 mmol per liter] before transplantation to 119+/-37 mg per deciliter [6.7+/-2.1 mmol per liter] after the first transplantation and 51+/-30 mg per deciliter [2.8+/-1.7 mmol per liter] after the attainment of insulin independence; P<0.001). There were no further episodes of hypoglycemic coma. Complications were minor, and there were no significant increases in lipid concentrations during follow-up.
Conclusions: Our observations in patients with type 1 diabetes indicate that islet transplantation can result in insulin independence with excellent metabolic control when glucocorticoid-free immunosuppression is combined with the infusion of an adequate islet mass.