Diabetes treatment has benefited enormously from research on islet cell transplantation. Islet cells are cells that are present in the pancreas. They are present as clusters and are more commonly known as islets of Langerhans. A particular type of islet cell, known as the beta cell, is responsible for the creation of insulin in the body.
Islet Cells and Diabetes Treatment
When your islet cells are destroyed or do not function properly, the insulin levels in your body tend to fall and get affected, leading to high blood sugar levels, causing diabetes. Once the diabetes diagnosis has confirmed a case of high blood sugar, treatment normally involves taking insulin doses at regular intervals. But the advent of the islet cell transplant procedure has given a new direction to patients suffering from insulin related problems.
Who Benefits From Islet Cell Transplants?
Types of Diabetes: Diabetes treatment has conventionally involved attempts to control high blood sugar levels using medicines, exercises and diet. There are two kinds of diabetes. Type-1 diabetes occurs when the body is unable to produce insulin and it is seen more often in children and young adults. Type-2 diabetes occurs when the body is unable to use the insulin that it produces effectively and this is normally seen in older people.
Diabetes Treatment Through Islet Cell Transplantation:
Diabetes treatment for Type 1 patients includes rectification through islet cell transplantation. The basic reason why Type 1 diabetes occurs is because the body for unknown reasons begins to regard the beta cells – which produce insulin – as a foreign substance. This reaction kick starts the body’s immune system. In a bid to protect itself against these foreign cells, the immune system systematically destroys all the beta cells. With no insulin, the body’s ability to regulate glucose levels is lost, leading to high blood sugar levels. Islet cell transplant, preceded by pre diabetes treatment of course, introduces new beta cells into the system that makes insulin, thus eliminating the need to take daily insulin injections.
Success Rates in Diabetes Treatment:
According to a study conducted in 2005 by a group of researchers, 471 patients with Type-1 diabetes successfully received islet cell transplantation in the period between 1999 and 2005. Yet another study indicated that 58% of patients who underwent the transplant were able to lead insulin-independent lives within a year.
Patients with Hypoglycemia Unawareness
Hypoglycemia refers to a condition of low blood glucose. People with fluctuating blood sugar levels very often lose the ability to recognize when their blood sugar levels are dropping. Their bodies fail to issue the warning signals and their blood sugar levels drop. Hypoglycemia can be a life threatening condition.
Islet Cell Transplant and Hypoglycemia:
Islet cell transplantation has been very successful in reversing hypoglycemia unawareness. Medical journals report that only a partial islet cell transplant can bring in extremely successful results in reversing hypoglycemia unawareness.
Pancreatitis and Pancreatecomy Patients
Pancreatitis is basically the inflammation of pancreas. It causes extremely severe pain in the upper abdominal region. Patients with pancreatitis often end up with jaundice and sometimes, the infection in the pancreas can be so severe that pancreatecomy or removal of the pancreas is the only solution.
The Risks Associated:
The problem with removing the pancreas is that patients often develop ‘brittle diabetes’. This is basically Type-1 diabetes in an uncontrollable form. The patient’s blood sugar levels begin to fluctuate widely and this can cause either hypoglycemia (low glucose levels) or hyperglycemia (high blood sugar levels).
Islet cell Transplant and Pancreatecomy:
If the doctor has decided that pancreatecomy is the best solution for rectifying pancreatitis in the patient, then an autologous islet cell transplant can help prevent the onset of diabetes. In an autologous transplant, the patient’s islet cells are removed from the damaged pancreas. This should be done as quickly as possible because pancreatitis destroys the islet cells. These islets cells are then injected into the liver and here, the islet cells will produce insulin and keep the patient free from diabetes.
Islet cell transplantation has been useful in diabetes treatment and in treating patients with hypoglycemia unawareness. Research is now moving towards creating islet cells from stem cells. this could lead to a breakthrough in the pancreatic transplant procedure.