Islet cell transplantation has recently emerged as one of the most promising therapeutic approaches to improving glycometabolic control in diabetic patients and, in many cases, achieving insulin independence. Unfortunately, many persistent flaws still prevent islet transplantation from becoming the gold standard treatment for type 1 diabetic patients. We review the state of the art of islet transplantation, outcomes, immunosuppression and--most important--the impact on patients' survival and long-term diabetic complications and eventual alternative options. Finally, we review the many problems in the field and the challenges to islet survival after transplantation. The rate of insulin independence 1 year after islet cell transplantation has significantly improved in recent years (60% at 1 year posttransplantation compared with 15% previously). Recent data indicate that restoration of insulin secretion after islet cell transplantation is associated with an improvement in quality of life, with a reduction in hypoglycemic episodes and potentially with a reduction in long-term diabetic complications. Once clinical islet transplantation has been successfully established, this treatment could even be offered to diabetic patients long before the onset of diabetic complications.