About 40 islet cells are the crucial number because the patient’s immune system immediately starts trying to destroy them — in part because they are foreign to that body but also because the receiving patient still has the autoimmune disease of type 1 diabetes.
Transplanting 40 islet cells at one time ensures that while those islet cells will be under attack by the receiving patient’s immune system, there will be enough present to produce an adequate amount of insulin, enabling the patient to no longer need insulin injections or daily blood sugar monitoring.
However, over the course of three years, those transplanted islet cells will succumb gradually to the immune systems ongoing attack, which means another transplant is required.
In order to continue producing insulin, patients need islet cell transplants every three years for the rest of their lives.
Throughout the rest of their lives, they also will be required to take a variety of immunosuppressive drugs and anti-inflammatory medications to help ensure the survival — albeit brief — of each round of transplanted cells.
If you believe you are eligible for an islet cell transplant due to severe hypoglycemia unawareness, work with your healthcare team to contact the University of California San Francisco.
The UCSF Medical Center is one of the leading facilities in the country trained and outfitted to perform islet cell transplantation.