About the Islet Cell Transplantation Program
Northwestern University is one of the premier centers in the exciting field of islet cell transplantation. Islet cell transplantation is an investigational therapy for treating diabetes in select patients through the infusion of insulin producing islets that replace the defective islets in patients with diabetes using a minimally invasive radiologic technique that avoids conventional surgery.
Very few islet transplants are performed annually in the U.S. Those that are performed are done under rigorous study protocols requiring state-of-the-art clean room facilities for islet isolation at academic institutions heavily supported by clinical research resources. Northwestern is such a center. In 1996 Northwestern performed the first islet cell transplant in Illinois. Islet cell transplantation is being performed for patients with type 1 diabetes in conjunction with the hospital’s National Institutes of Health (NIH) supported Clinical Research Unit.
During the last two years, Northwestern performed a total of 15 islet transplantations in seven type 1 diabetic recipients in several trials supported by the NIH. All seven patients achieved insulin independence after one or two islet infusions. Our rate of transplantation and success of islet manufacturing are among the top of all North American transplant centers funded by the NIH to participate in these trials. We are continuing our islet transplant effort to complete the enrollment for the NIH funded trial and will be recruiting additional type 1 diabetic patients for a new islet cell transplant trial with new immunosuppression regimens. In addition, following the footsteps of our success in achieving transplant tolerance (a state that allows complete withdrawal of immunosuppression) in kidney transplantation, we are currently testing a robust tolerance strategy for islet cell transplantation in pre-clinical models, with the anticipation of launching a clinical trial for tolerance induction in islet cell transplantation in the near future.
Northwestern’s islet transplant program takes a multidisciplinary approach to pre-transplant candidate assessment and post-transplant care for both allogeneic and autologous islet transplant patients. In collaboration with our endocrine team, we are in the final stages of development of another clinical trial, with the purpose of determining the most appropriate standard-of-care and management of islet cell patients post-transplant.
Active enrollment of patients is ongoing for two NIH-supported studies of patients with severe diabetic control problems:
Islet Transplantation Alone (ITA)
This procedure is for patients who have significant difficulty avoiding and sensing extremely low blood sugar levels, referred to as hypoglycemic unawareness, which results in life-threatening unconsciousness without warning and frequent interruptions of routine daily activities. It is also for patients with extremely brittle diabetes that interrupts routine daily activities with episodes of extremely high blood glucose levels that can result in frequent emergency room visits and hospitalizations.
Islet After Kidney (IAK) Transplantation
This procedure is for patients with type I diabetes and a successful kidney transplant. Such patients are good candidates for a sequential islet transplant procedure because they already receive anti-rejection therapy for the kidney.
Why Northwestern Memorial
At Northwestern Memorial, islet transplantation is heralding a new era of cutting-edge treatments for patients with type 1 diabetes. Our tightly integrated system of surgical and medical specialists and outstanding nurses are working together to bring the latest technology in cellular therapy, diagnostics and therapeutics to the field of islet transplantation.
Benefits of our Comprehensive Islet Transplantation Program
AUTO-ISLET TRANSPLANTATION FOLLOWING TOTAL PANCREATECTOMY