Context: Islet allografts from 2 to 4 donors can reverse type 1 diabetes. However, for islet transplants to become a widespread clinical reality, diabetes reversal must be achieved with a single donor to reduce risks and costs and increase the availability of transplantation.
Objective: To assess the safety of a single-donor, marginal-dose islet transplant protocol using potent induction immunotherapy and less diabetogenic maintenance immunosuppression in recipients with type 1 diabetes. A secondary objective was to assess the proportion of islet transplant recipients who achieve insulin independence in the first year after single-donor islet transplantation.
Design, setting, and participants: Prospective, 1-year follow-up trial conducted July 2001 to August 2003 at a single US center and enrolling 8 women with type 1 diabetes accompanied by recurrent hypoglycemia unawareness or advanced secondary complications.
Interventions: Study participants underwent a primary islet allotransplant with 7271 (SD, 1035) islet equivalents/kg prepared from a single cadaver donor pancreas. Induction immunosuppression was with antithymocyte globulin, daclizumab, and etanercept. Maintenance immunosuppression consisted of mycophenolate mofetil, sirolimus, and no or low-dose tacrolimus.
Main outcome measures: Safety (assessed by monitoring the severity and duration of adverse events) and efficacy (assessed by studying the recipients' insulin requirements, C-peptide levels, oral and intravenous glucose tolerance results, intravenous arginine stimulation responses, glycosylated hemoglobin levels, and hypoglycemic episodes) associated with the study transplant protocol.
Results: There were no serious, unexpected, or procedure- or immunosuppression-related adverse events. All 8 recipients achieved insulin independence and freedom from hypoglycemia. Five remained insulin-independent for longer than 1 year. Graft failure in 3 recipients was preceded by subtherapeutic sirolimus exposure in the absence of measurable tacrolimus trough levels.
Conclusions: The tested transplant protocol restored insulin independence and protected against hypoglycemia after single-donor, marginal-dose islet transplantation in 8 of 8 recipients. These results may be related to improved islet engraftment secondary to peritransplant administration of antithymocyte globulin and etanercept. These findings may have implications for the ongoing transition of islet transplantation from clinical investigation to routine clinical care.