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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago

Islet Cell Transplantation

Northwestern Memorial offers one of the premier centers in the exciting field of islet cell transplantation. Islet cell transplantation is an investigational therapy for treating diabetes in select patients. Using a minimally invasive radiologic technique that avoids conventional surgery, physicians infuse insulin-producing islets into patients with diabetes to replace their defective islets.

Very few islet transplants are performed annually in the U.S. Those that are performed are done under rigorous study protocols requiring state-of-the-art clean room facilities for islet isolation at academic institutions heavily supported by clinical research resources. Northwestern is such a center. In 1996, Northwestern performed the first islet cell transplant in Illinois. Islet cell transplantation is offered to patients with type 1 diabetes in conjunction with Northwestern Memorial’s National Institutes of Health (NIH)-supported General Clinical Research Center.

Active enrollment of patients is ongoing for two NIH-supported studies of patients with severe diabetic control problems:

Islet Transplantation Alone (ITA)
This procedure is for patients who have significant difficulty avoiding and sensing extremely low blood sugar levels, referred to as hypoglycemic unawareness, which results in life-threatening unconsciousness without warning and frequent interruptions of routine daily activities. It is also for patients with extremely brittle diabetes that interrupts routine daily activities with episodes of extremely high blood glucose levels that can result in frequent emergency room visits and hospitalizations.

Islet After Kidney (IAK) Transplantation
This procedure is for patients with type I diabetes and a successful kidney transplant. Such patients are good candidates for a sequential islet transplant procedure because they already receive anti-rejection therapy for the kidney.

Why Northwestern Memorial

At Northwestern Memorial, islet transplantation is heralding a new era of cutting-edge treatments for patients with type 1 diabetes. Our tightly integrated system of surgical and medical specialists and outstanding nurses are working together to bring the latest technology in cellular therapy, diagnostics and therapeutics to the field of islet transplantation.

Benefits of our Comprehensive Islet Transplantation Program

  • The first and most active islet transplant program in Illinois
  • NIH-supported clinical trials in islet transplantation
  • Clinical trials to evaluate the most modern anti-rejection therapy to prolong transplant graft survival
  • Steroid-free islet transplant immunosuppression
  • Integration with the kidney transplant program for combined transplants for patients with renal disease and type 1 diabetes
  • Collaboration among physicians and surgeons who are recognized leaders in the treatment of diabetes
Last UpdateApril 8, 2011