Background: Type 1 diabetes mellitus is caused by the autoimmune destruction of pancreatic beta (β) cells, resulting in severe insulin deficiency. Islet transplantation is a β-cell replacement therapeutic option that aims to restore glycemic control in patients with type 1 diabetes. The objective of this study was to determine the clinical effectiveness of islet transplantation in patients with type 1 diabetes, with or without kidney disease.
Methods: We conducted a systematic review of the literature on islet transplantation for type 1 diabetes, including relevant health technology assessments, systematic reviews, meta-analyses, and observational studies. We used a two-step process: first, we searched for systematic reviews and health technology assessments; second, we searched primary studies to update the chosen health technology assessment. The Assessment of Multiple Systematic Reviews measurement tool was used to examine the methodological quality of the systematic reviews and health technology assessments. We assessed the quality of the body of evidence and the risk of bias according to the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE) Working Group criteria.
Results: Our searched yielded 1,354 citations. One health technology assessment, 11 additional observational studies to update the health technology assessment, one registry report, and four guidelines were included; the observational studies examined islet transplantation alone, islet-after-kidney transplantation, and simultaneous islet-kidney transplantation. In general, low to very low quality of evidence exists for islet transplantation in patients with type 1 diabetes with difficult-to-control blood glucose levels, with or without kidney disease, for these outcomes: health-related quality of life, secondary complications of diabetes, glycemic control, and adverse events. However, high quality of evidence exists for the specific glycemic control outcome of insulin independence compared with intensive insulin therapy. For patients without kidney disease, islet transplantation improves glycemic control and diabetic complications for patients with type 1 diabetes when compared with intensive insulin therapy. However, results for health-related quality of life outcomes were mixed, and adverse events were increased compared with intensive insulin therapy. For patients with type 1 diabetes with kidney disease, islet-after-kidney transplantation or simultaneous islet-kidney transplantation also improved glycemic control and secondary diabetic complications, although the evidence was more limited for this patient group. Compared with intensive insulin therapy, adverse events for islet-after-kidney transplantation or simultaneous islet-kidney transplantation were increased, but were in general less severe than with whole pancreas transplantation.
Conclusions: For patients with type 1 diabetes with difficult-to-control blood glucose levels, islet transplantation may be a beneficial β-cell replacement therapy to improve glycemic control and secondary complications of diabetes. However, there is uncertainty in the estimates of effectiveness because of the generally low to very low quality of evidence for all outcomes of interest.