UCLA is one of only a few programs in the world to offer autologous (auto) islet cell transplantation. This pioneering procedure can restore patients to a life without chronic pancreatitis pain or insulin dependence.
Islet cell transplantation allows us to cure pancreatitis with a lower risk of developing diabetes after surgery. Through islet cell transplant, we remove the pancreas, but you keep your insulin-producing islet cells. Because you keep your own islet cells, auto islet transplant has no risk of rejection.
Our program is among only about 20 programs in the U.S. to offer auto islet cell transplants. UCLA Health offers:
The islets of Langerhans are small clusters of cells in the pancreas. Islet cells produce insulin, a hormone that helps manage blood sugar. These cells also produce enzymes to help your body digest food.
An islet cell transplant may be an option if you need a pancreatectomy. Pancreatectomy typically removes the pancreatic islets. But without islet cells, you can’t produce insulin. As a result, you develop type 1 diabetes.
We perform autologous islet transplantation. An autologous transplant means we return your own islet cells to you.
With an islet cell transplant, your body can continue making insulin. The pancreatectomy relieves the pain of chronic pancreatitis by removing all or part of the pancreas. The islet cell transplant minimizes or eliminates the risk of diabetes from the pancreatectomy.
In autologous islet cell transplantation:
After you leave the hospital, you will continue to have follow-up care from a UCLA endocrinologist (hormone specialist). This doctor will manage your initial insulin treatments as the transplanted islets “rest” after the procedure. Over time, as the islets recover and begin producing insulin, you can hopefully stop taking insulin.
Unlike other types of transplant, you do not need to take immunosuppressive medications after surgery. Because the islet cells are your own, there is no risk of rejection.
After a pancreatectomy, people get relief from pancreatitis pain. But because a standard pancreatectomy also removes the islet cells, people no longer produce insulin. They develop what’s known as surgical diabetes — diabetes resulting from surgery.
Islet cell transplant can prevent diabetes from developing in some people after a pancreatectomy. Generally, islet cell transplant has better results for people who have had pancreatitis for a shorter time. Over time, the chronic pancreas inflammation can damage the islet cells so they no longer produce insulin.
Our results mirror those of islet cell transplant programs globally:
Even individuals who do need insulin after the procedure eventually have greatly reduced pain or will be pain free.
We offer islet cell transplantation for adults and children with severe, chronic pain from chronic pancreatitis. Our islet cell transplant team evaluates you to determine your eligibility. We review symptoms of chronic pancreatitis, including chronic pain, and assess your overall health. You also have a general surgery evaluation.
You do not need to be placed on a transplant waiting list for an islet cell transplant. The islet cells you receive are your own, so there is no need to wait for a donor.
To schedule an appointment with the UCLA Transplant Program, please call 310-206-6889 or contact us to schedule an evaluation.