Pancreatic Islet System

The challenge

Photograph of self-administered blood sugar level test

The global incidence of diabetes mellitus is on the rise.

Since the late 1990s, medical practitioners have been refining a procedure to treat Type 1 diabetes, known as the Edmonton Protocol, during which patients receive a transplant of pancreatic islets – the cells responsible for insulin production.

Following a successful operation, some patients report life-changing results. Their bodies once again produce and regulate their insulin levels and they are no longer dependent on daily injections.

However, the success of the transplant operations and the number conducted are affected by the poor supply of pancreatic islets.

The islets are currently stored, transported and delivered using blood bags and associated infrastructure. This process and the initial harvesting steps can result in cell damage, leading to less than 10 per cent of the cells successfully engrafting in the recipient.

A partnership between Loughborough University’s Centre for Biological Engineering and the Institute of Cellular Medicine at Newcastle University – international experts in the field of islet transplantation – has led to the development of a novel technology that will radically enhance the delivery of this life-changing procedure.