Pancreatic islet and stem cell transplantation: new strategies in cell therapy of diabetes mellitus

Panminerva Med. 2004 Mar;46(1):25-42.


Long-term studies strongly suggest that tight control of blood glucose can prevent the development and retard the progression of chronic complications of type 1 diabetes mellitus. In contrast to conventional insulin treatment, replacement of a patient's islets of Langerhans either by pancreas organ transplantation of by isolated islet transplantation is the only treatment to achieve a constant normoglycemic state and avoiding hypoglycemic episodes, a typical adverse event of multiple daily insulin injections. However, the expense of this benefit is still the need for immunosuppressive treatment of the recipient with all its potential risks. Islet cell transplantation offers the advantage of being performed as a minimally invasive procedure, in which islets can be perfused percutaneously into the liver via the portal vein. As of June 2003, 705 pancreatic islet transplants worldwide have been reported to the International Islet Transplant Registry (ITR) at our Third Medical Department, University of Giessen/Germany. Data analysis shows at 1 year after adult islet transplantation a patient survival rate of 97%, a functioning islet graft in 54% of the cases, whereas insulin independence was meanwhile achieved in 20% of the cases. However, using a novel protocol established by the Edmonton Center/Canada, the insulin independence rates have improved significantly reaching meanwhile a 50-80% level. Finally, the concept of islet cell or stem cell transplantation is most attractive since it offers many perspectives: islet cell availability could become unlimited and islet or stem cells my be transplanted without life-long immunosuppressive treatment of the recipient, just to mention 2 of them.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / therapy*
  • Germany
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Islets of Langerhans Transplantation* / history
  • Islets of Langerhans Transplantation* / methods
  • Islets of Langerhans Transplantation* / trends
  • Stem Cell Transplantation