Type 1 diabetes mellitus (DM) is caused by the autoimmune destruction of insulin secreting cells in the pancreas. The lack of insulin results in elevated levels of blood sugar (hyperglycemia). Conventional treatment of type 1 DM is the provision of exogenous insulin. However, even under the best care, blood sugar levels do not return to normal, and individuals receiving exogenous insulin are susceptible to low blood sugar reactions that are often life threatening.
One new approach to treat DM 1 has been to transplant pancreatic islet cells from human or animal sources to replace destroyed native islet cells. However, the transplanted material is subject to the same autoimmune attack as the original insulin producing cells. Additionally, the transplanted islet cells, being foreign tissue, are subject to tissue rejection by the recipient. To overcome these problems, special medications (with significant side effects) are necessary for success.
Despite the challenges, there has been improvement in the success rate of islet cell transplantation. Hadassah Medical Organization is expanding its efforts in the fight against diabetes. Hadassah Diabetes Center (HDC) will utilize multiple approaches to reduce the incidence of DM and complications. One program under development is the Islet Cell Transplantation Unit (ICTU). The ICTU will include both clinical and basic science research components.
The Islet Cell Transplantation Program will focus on improved islet cell harvesting and preservation, the use of xenografts, developing new strategies for islet cell transplantation, and the improvement of anti-rejection pharmacological protocols. The ICTU will exploit the resources (both human and technical) already present at HMO, and recruit additional physicians, scientists, and support staff.