The National Institutes of Health will fund studies at 11 research centers in the United States, Canada, Sweden and Norway to look into ways to improve outcomes and lessen the side effects from islet cell transplantations in people with type 1 diabetes.
A transplantation takes islets from donor pancreases and infuses them into the liver of a type 1 patient. If the islets successfully lodge in the liver’s small blood vessels, they begin producing insulin—an astounding result given that the autoimmune aspects of type 1 almost invariably destroy the body’s insulin-making capabilities.
However, islet recipients must take drugs that suppress the immune system and keep it from rejecting the transplants. Researchers will use NIH funding to find more effective combinations of anti-rejection drugs that will reduce toxic side effects and increase the likelihood of the islets “taking.”
Another goal is to find ways to generate a much greater supply of islets so that more type 1s can benefit from transplantations.