Islet cells are cells in the pancreas that produce insulin—the hormone your body uses to control blood sugar levels. Transplantation of pancreatic islet cells is a new approach with the goal of reversing or preventing diabetes. NewYork-Presbyterian is a world leader in islet cell transplantation. This approach is especially promising for the treatment of people who may need to have their pancreas removed due to painful pancreatitis.
Islet Cell Transplantation for Pancreatitis
NewYork-Presbyterian performed their first autologous islet cell transplant in 2014—where islet cells are removed from a person's pancreas that has been surgically removed (pancreatectomy) as a treatment for chronic pancreatitis. We were the first center in the New York metropolitan area and one of just a few in the country to offer this procedure. People who need pancreatectomy may be eligible for this type of transplant as a means of preventing type 1 diabetes.
- A comprehensive program. We offer a multidisciplinary program for autologous islet cell transplantation after pancreatectomy. The team includes surgeons, gastroenterologists, nutritionists, and others with expertise in chronic pancreatitis treatment.
- Who is eligible? This procedure is reserved only for those with pancreatitis in whom pain is so severe and unrelenting that it has led to a dependence on narcotic medications and all other nonsurgical treatments have failed.
- How autologous islet cell transplantation is performed. After removal of the pancreas, islet cells are isolated from the pancreas and made into a solution. The solution is then infused into the patient's liver, through the portal vein. Once in the liver, the islet cells will engraft and produce insulin.
- Preventing diabetes. Autologous islet cell transplantation is beneficial for most patients who have it. A third of patients can maintain normal blood sugar levels without needing insulin therapy, while another third can significantly reduce their dependence on insulin injections.
- Islet cell transplantation in people at risk for pancreatic cancer. Our researchers are refining autologous islet cell transplantation and investigating the procedure's promise for people at high risk of pancreatic cancer. It may be possible to remove the pancreas in these patients to prevent cancer, and then perform islet cell transplantation to prevent diabetes.