, Volume 11, Issue 5, pp 345-354
Date: 10 Aug 2011

State of the Art of Clinical Islet Transplantation and Novel Protocols of Immunosuppression

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Clinical islet transplantation has transitioned from curiosity to realistic therapy over the past decade. An estimated 750 patients have undergone intraportal islet-alone transplantation over this period, and a smaller subset received combined islet-kidney transplants. The primary benefit of successful islet transplantation has been to eliminate severe, recurrent hypoglycemia, a problem that has been hard to eliminate by other means in 15% of those with type 1 diabetes. The secondary benefit of independence from insulin has attracted patients, but has had limited sustainability previously, especially with a single-donor graft, but recent results from four independent centers suggest marked improvement in long-term outcome, with 5-year results now approximating solitary pancreas transplantation. Emerging data confirm that islet transplantation can stabilize and reverse several secondary diabetic complications similar to whole pancreas transplantation, but larger, head-to-head trials are needed to compare islet transplantation with best medical therapies. Current goals are to extend durability, and to make islet transplantation more widely available for patients in need. Governmental and health insurance providers in several countries now reimburse islet transplantation as part of clinical care. As the safety of the procedure and of adjunctive immunosuppressive therapies improve, and benefit accrues over potential risk, islet transplantation will be offered earlier in the course of the disease, including newly diagnosed children. The role of islet transplantation in type 2 diabetes has yet to be defined. We review the current status of islet transplantation, and discuss current and future immunosuppressive protocols that will pave the way to more broad application of cellular replacement in diabetes.