Why Doctors Are Hesitant to Do Pancreas Transplants for Diabetes Patients

The exocrine function of your pancreas secretes enzymes that enable your body to break down the macronutrients that make up the food you eat such as proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.

The endocrine function of your pancreas secretes hormones such as insulin and glucagon. Both are essential to controlling blood sugar.

Insulin makes use of the glucose in your blood (which comes largely from the food you eat) to ensure your blood sugar doesn’t rise above normal levels.

Glucagon serves to prevent low blood sugars by signaling to your liver to release glycogen, which is simply stored glucose.

Another hormone produced by the endocrine function of your pancreas is amylin, which helps to control appetite, delay the rate at which your stomach empties broken-down food into the bloodstream, and controls the amount of glycogen released by the liver.

The importance of islet cells

To restore insulin production, a patient needs an “islet cell” transplant.

Your islet cells are from the “Islets of Langerhans” portion of the pancreas, named after its discoverer, German physician Paul Langerhans.

Within each islet cell is a trio of smaller cells: beta, alpha, and delta cells. The beta cells within the islet cells are responsible for the production of insulin.

Transplanting an islet cell is not a simple procedure, nor is it a long-term solution for most people with diabetes.

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