Considerations and Challenges of Islet Transplantation and Future Therapies on the Horizon

Sophie Walker, Mahesh Appari, Shareen Forbes

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Islet transplantation is a treatment for selected adults with Type 1 diabetes and severe hypoglycemia. Islets from two or more donor pancreases, a scarce resource, are usually required to impact on glycemic control but the treatment falls short of a cure. Islets are avascular when transplanted into the hypoxic liver environment and subjected to inflammatory insults, immune attack and toxicity from systemic immunosuppression. The Collaborative Islet Transplant Registry with outcome data on over 1000 islet transplant recipients has demonstrated that larger islet numbers transplanted and older age of recipient are associated with better outcomes. Induction with T cell depleting agents and the TNF-α inhibitor Etanercept and maintenance systemic immunosuppression with mTOR inhibitors in combination with calcineurin inhibitors also appear advantageous, but concerns remain over immunosuppressive toxicity. We discuss strategies and therapeutics which address specific challenges of islet transplantation, many of which are at the pre-clinical stage of development. On the horizon are adjuvant cell therapies with mesenchymal stromal cells and regulatory T cells that have been used in preclinical models and in humans in other contexts; such a strategy may enable reductions in immunosuppression in the early peri-transplant period when the islets are vulnerable to apoptosis. Human embryonic stem-cell derived islets are in early phase clinical trials and hold the promise of an inexhaustible supply of insulin producing cells; effective encapsulation of such cells or, silencing of the HLA complex would eliminate the need for immunosuppression, enabling this therapy to be used in all those with Type 1 diabetes.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism
Publication statusPublished - 20 Dec 2021


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