Autologous islet transplantation involves the infusion of the patient's own pancreatic islet cells into his or her liver, where they may act like a backup pancreas, independently producing insulin. This relatively new therapeutic option now enables some patients to undergo pancreatectomy for chronic pancreatitis without becoming diabetic.
Pancreatectomy (removal of the pancreas) may be performed when the pain of chronic pancreatitis becomes unbearable. Because the pancreas produces digestive enzymes and hormones including insulin, this surgery is reserved only for those in whom pain is so severe and unremitting that it has led to dependence on narcotic medications. After pancreatectomy, pain is relieved in 93% of cases, but the absence of insulin production leaves patients fully diabetic.
In autologous islet cell transplantation, the patient's pancreas is surgically removed. Islet of Langerhans cells (the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin), are isolated from the pancreas and made into a solution. The solution is then infused into the patient's liver, through the hepatic vein. Once in the liver, the islet cells may begin to produce insulin that functions just as it did when produced in the pancreas.
When autologous islet transplantation is successful, the procedure results in patients maintaining normal blood sugar levels without needing insulin.
If you or someone you care for is dealing with pancreatitis, the Pancreas Center is here for you. Our dedicated Pancreatitis Program at Columbia is one of only a few U.S. programs, and the only program in the New York metropolitan area, to offer autologous cell transplantation.
Call us at (212) 305-4795 or use our online form to get in touch today.