When you think about it, kidney and pancreas transplants (which I discuss earlier in this chapter) are pretty straightforward; simply speaking, a donor's organs are sewn into your body so that all the organs, old and new, work together. But as you find out in the following sections, you also have a new and exciting method of "curing" T1DM at your disposal: transplanting only the pancreatic tissue that contains the insulin-secreting beta cells. That's what's done in islet transplantation.
As I explain in Chapters 2 and 10, insulin is made in beta cells in the pancreas, which are found in areas of the pancreas called islets. The islets make up only 2 percent of the pancreas, but there are a million of them. Pancreatic islet transplantation involves the extraction of the islets from the donor pancreas and the injection of the islets into the liver of the recipient with T1DM. Islet transplantation is much simpler than whole pancreas transplantation because the more-major surgery is limited to the donor, who's deceased. (For details on the actual transplant, see the later section "The process of surgery and recovery.") The objective is to eliminate the need for insulin injections.
\VP ^ As of this writing, islet transplantation in the United States is being done only in the form of clinical trials. If you're interested in joining a clinical trial on islet transplantation, go to www.clinicaltrials.gov. Enter "islet transplantation" in the search box, and you'll be taken to a listing of studies, one of which may be near you.
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Diabetes is a disease that affects the way your body uses food. Normally, your body converts sugars, starches and other foods into a form of sugar called glucose. Your body uses glucose for fuel. The cells receive the glucose through the bloodstream. They then use insulin a hormone made by the pancreas to absorb the glucose, convert it into energy, and either use it or store it for later use. Learn more...