Context: Islet transplantation has been shown to improve glucose counterregulation and hypoglycemia symptom recognition in patients with type 1 diabetes (T1D) complicated by severe hypoglycemia episodes and symptom unawareness, but long-term data are lacking.
Objective: To assess the long-term durability of glucose counterregulation and hypoglycemia symptom responses 18 months after intrahepatic islet transplantation and associated measures of glycemic control during a 24-month follow-up period.
Design, setting, and participants: Ten patients with T1D disease duration of approximately 27 years were studied longitudinally before and 6 and 18 months after transplant in the Clinical & Translational Research Center of the University of Pennsylvania and were compared to 10 nondiabetic control subjects.
Intervention: All 10 patients underwent intrahepatic islet transplantation according to the CIT07 protocol at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.
Main outcome measures: Counterregulatory hormone, endogenous glucose production, and autonomic symptom responses derived from stepped hyperinsulinemic-hypoglycemic and paired hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamps with infusion of 6,6-2H2-glucose.
Results: Near-normal glycemia (HbA1c ≤ 6.5%; time 70-180 mg/dL ≥ 95%) was maintained for 24 months in all patients, with one returning to low-dose insulin therapy. In response to insulin-induced hypoglycemia, glucagon secretion was incompletely restored at 6 and 18 months, epinephrine was improved at 6 months and normalized at 18 months, and endogenous glucose production and symptoms, absent before, were normalized at 6 and 18 months after transplant.
Conclusions: In patients with T1D experiencing problematic hypoglycemia, intrahepatic islet transplantation can lead to long-term improvement of glucose counterregulation and hypoglycemia symptom recognition, physiological effects that likely contribute to glycemic stability after transplant.