Aims/hypothesis: Improvements in islet transplantation require clinical series large enough to implement controlled new strategies. The goal of this study was to demonstrate the feasibility of a multicentre network for islet transplantation in Type I (insulin-dependent) diabetic patients.
Methods: The five centres (Besançon, Geneva, Grenoble, Lyon, Strasbourg) of the GRAGIL network allow pancreas procurement, recipient recruitment, transplantation procedure and follow-up. Islet isolation is, however, performed in one single laboratory (Geneva). Pancreata were procured in each of the five centres and transported to Geneva with an ischaemia time of less than 8 hours. Islets were isolated using a standard automated method. If the islet number was too low for a graft (< 6,000 Islet-equivalent/kg), islets were cultured up to 12 days until another isolation was possible. Islets were transplanted by percutaneous transhepatic intraportal injection. Immunosuppression consisted of cyclosporine, mycophenolate mofetil, steroids and an anti-interleukin 2 receptor antibody.
Results: From March 1999 to June 2000, 56 pancreata procurements were performed with an average yield of 234500 islet-equivalent, with 32 preparations over 200000 islet-equivalent. Ten C-peptide negative Type I diabetic patients (5 men and 5 women, median age 44 years, median diabetes duration 29 years) with an established kidney graft (> 6 months) received 9,030 +/- 1,090 islet-equivalent/kg with a median purity of 63 %. The number of pancreata required for each graft was 1 (n = 5) or 2 (n = 5). At the completion of a 12 month follow-up, we observed 0% primary nonfunction, 50% graft survival and 20% insulin-independence.
Conclusions/interpretation: This study demonstrates the interest and the feasibility of a multicentre collaboration in human islet transplantation.