Type 1 diabetes mellitus is an autoimmune disease that is characterized by the destruction of the islets of Langerhans cells which produce insulin. The current gold standard treatment is exogenous insulin injection, but this is onerous for the patients, and can lead to severe complications. Another approach involves transplanting pancreatic islet cells in order to restore endogenous insulin production under physiologic regulation. Although there has been some success with this treatment plan, there have been several hurdles. The largest hurdle is improving the 5 year survival of the graft, which is currently at 10%. In order to do so, there has been research into better locations for the graft, better isolation techniques, alternate immune suppression regimens, and novel transplantation methodologies utilizing encapsulated grafts. Another hurdle for pancreatic islet transplantation is that current methodologies require islets from several pancreata in order to create one successful graft, which leads to difficulties since there is a limited supply. However, there has been research looking into single donor transplants and porcine xenografts to increase the supply and address this problem. In this article, we review the current state of research regarding pancreatic islet transplantation.
Keywords: Autoimmunity, Type 1 diabetes, Immune rejection, Islet transplantation, Pancreas transplantation.