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The impact of islet transplantation

Project summary

Professor James Shaw and his team will examine the effectiveness of islet transplants at different UK transplant centres, and the impact they can have on the wellbeing people living with Type 1 diabetes who have hypo unawareness. The team hope to gain a better understanding of which methods lead to the most successful transplants, and who could benefit the greatest in the long-term.

Background to research

Some people with Type 1 diabetes can't sense when their blood glucose levels are too low – this can be very dangerous and is termed ‘hypo unawareness’. Islet transplants are available through the NHS and can help this group of people to manage their diabetes and restore hypo awareness.

Islet transplants have already helped hundreds of people with Type 1 diabetes worldwide, but we need to know more about how we can make islet transplants as successful as possible, and who could benefit the most from the treatment in the future.

Research aims

The team will develop ways to check the quality of donor islets before they are transplanted, and a way of monitoring how well the islets function once they have been transplanted. They hope this will give us a better idea of which islets would offer the best chance of a successful outcome in the future, before they are transplanted. They’ll also test the success of islets transported from one hospital to another, with the hope of being able to offer the treatment to more people across the UK.

The researchers also want to examine how beneficial islet transplants can be for the recipient. They’ll assess all islet transplants recipients in the UK to see how their wellbeing, levels of satisfaction and quality of life has changed, using a questionnaire before and after they undergo their transplant.

The information gained from these questionnaires will help the researchers determine who could benefit from the treatment the most compared to other treatment options, such as an insulin pump. It will also help the team spot any trends between different transplant centres. From this, they’ll develop a national database to provide a clearer picture of the risks and benefits of transplantation, and determine who is likely to benefit the most.

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

Understanding the true impact of islet transplants for people living with Type 1 diabetes will help decide whether this type of treatment would be the most beneficial for an individual in the long-term compared to other treatments. It will also help to improve the islet transplant process itself, by being able to compare different UK islet transplant programmes.

This project has been adopted by:

Diabetes UK local groups: Berwick-upon-Tweed, Cardiff, Carlisle & District, Durham, and York & District.

Organisations: Harrogate Grammar School, Legal and General Hove, The Blackpool Wyre & Fylde Children's Support,

Individuals: John Ford

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