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Islet cell transplantation in Scotland

The Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service has opened a new laboratory in Edinburgh to offer around 12 people a year islet cell transplant therapy.

Islet cell transplant therapy is a pioneering treatment for diabetes that was part-funded by Diabetes UK in its research stages.

About islets

Islets are groups of cells in the pancreas that contain the insulin-producing beta cells. In people with Type 1 diabetes, the beta cells are destroyed so they must take insulin by injection to remain healthy. This means having to estimate how much insulin they will need and for some people it is very difficult to achieve stable blood glucose levels.

Islet cell transplantation

A small number of people with Type 1 diabetes can benefit from islet transplantation, a procedure in which an individual’s destroyed islet cells are replaced using cells harvested from donor pancreases.

Who is eligible for a transplant?

Because the drugs required to prevent rejection of the transplant can have serious side effects, the procedure is currently only suitable for those people who have extreme problems controlling their diabetes, experience innumerable hypos with little or no warning, which can be life threatening, and as a consequence have drastically reduced quality of life.

Diabetes UK-funded research helps diabetes management

“It is fantastic to see Diabetes UK-funded research helping people to manage their diabetes more effectively," said Dr Iain Frame, Research Director at Diabetes UK.

Life-changing

"Islet cell transplantation can be life-changing for a small number of people with Type 1 diabetes and getting it to this stage would not have been possible without the collaborative efforts of all the dedicated researchers and doctors involved.” 

Groundbreaking

Scotland’s Minister for Public Health, Shona Robinson, said: "I'm delighted to be launching this groundbreaking programme, which will be of great benefit to some groups of people living with Type 1 diabetes."

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