Baylor Transplant Services

Islet Cell Transplant Program

The islet cell transplant program at Baylor University Medical Center (BUMC) was the first in Texas to receive FDA approval to independently process pancreatic islet cells for transplantation.  Since March of 2006, islet cell transplant has been an option for two specially selected groups of patients, those with chronic pancreatitis and those with type 1 diabetes.

Auto Islet Cell Transplantation for Chronic Pancreatitis

Chronic pancreatitis is often a long-term, debilitating disease process that frustrates patients and the physicians who treat them.  Approximately 15,000 Americans are diagnosed each year with chronic pancreatitis.  Recurrent bouts of pancreatitis result in inflammation, scarring and blockage of the pancreatic ducts and constant pain that is difficult to control with medications.   Although the pancreas can be surgically removed to alleviate the pain, the patients become severely diabetic because they no longer have the insulin-producing pancreatic islet cells.  However, with Auto Islet Cell Transplantation (AICT), the patient’s functioning islets are retained after total pancreatectomy.  Immediately after surgical removal pancreas, islet cells are extracted from the organ and purified in our FDA approved laboratory. Within hours the islet cells are infused back into the portal vein of the patient’s liver.  Shortly after transplant, these islets can start producing insulin. 

In the period from October 2006 to January 2011, 27 patients with chronic pancreatitis have undergone auto islet transplants at BUMC. Close to 40% of auto islet transplant patients do not need to use insulin once the islet cells start working from their new home in the liver. Research and experience at BUMC reveals other auto islet transplant patients will still need to use varying doses of insulin to control their blood sugar levels.  Another significant benefit is that most patients report substantial pain relief and reduction or total elimination of narcotics which greatly improves their quality of life.  Patients do not have to take immunosuppressant drugs like most transplant recipients because their body is receiving its own islets (autologous) and not those from a donor. 

Auto Islet Cell Transplantation may be a good option for some chronic pancreatitis patients who successfully complete a full transplant evaluation at Baylor University Medical Center.

Allo Islet Cell Transplant Research For Type 1 Diabetes

Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas and Baylor All Saints Medical Center at Fort Worth are two of only 17 US centers now participating in islet cell research clinical trials for type 1 diabetes.  During allo islet cell transplantation, insulin-producing islets are extracted from a qualified deceased donor pancreas and infused into a recipient with severe form of diabetes.  Once transplanted, the donor islets typically produce and release insulin and regulate the level of sugar in the blood.

Successful allo islet cell transplantation may represent a pivotal development in diabetes management, potentially allowing patients a better blood glucose control than ever before possible. It also may represent a critical breakthrough for type I diabetes patients, whose disease puts them at risk of such serious complications as heart disease, blindness, nerve damage and kidney damage.
Typical candidates for allo islet cell transplantation at BUMC have had type 1 diabetes for more than 5 years, have diabetes related complications such as frequent blackouts due to improper dose of insulin and early signs of kidney problems. Eleven patients have received islet transplants at Baylor from March 2006 to February 2010 with excellent clinical outcome.

Islet cell transplant for diabetes is still considered experimental and can only be conducted at approved centers like Baylor, which is equipped with a FDA approved islet cell processing facility and also clinicians well trained to handle the complex and long term medical needs of transplant patients.

For more information or to refer a patient to the Islet Transplantation Program call 214-820-1756