Islet Transplant A First For Ohio State

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

A 30-year-old Ohio woman has become the first person to have her pancreas removed in conjunction with an auto-islet cell transplant at the Ohio State University Medical Center. The dual procedure will alleviate the pain of the patient's lifelong pancreatitis while reducing the threat of her developing surgically- induced diabetes.

The surgery offers several advantages, according to Dr. Amer Rajab, a transplant surgeon at Ohio State whose team performed the procedure. "The procedure utilizes patients' own islet cells, which eliminates any threat of rejection, and substantially reduces the risk of the patient developing diabetes," he said.

Rajab says the procedure, called islet autotransplantation, is becoming more common as a treatment for pancreatitis, but is only offered at select medical centers.


"Chronic pancreatitis is very painful and severely limits a person's ability to function normally," said Rajab. "When removing the pancreas and infusing the islet cells back into the body to reduce the risk of surgically induced diabetes, the patient has potential for a much better quality of life. It's a complicated procedure, however, it offers much promise," he added.

In Monday's operation, the pancreas was removed in the operating room and rushed to a laboratory where Rajab and his team harvested the islet cells. Returning to the operating room about an hour later, Rajab infused the cells into the patient's liver through the portal vein where they will graft and mimic the function of the removed pancreas.

The patient will spend approximately two weeks at the medical center to recover from the surgical procedure, and it will take about a month to determine if the islets are healthy and working well enough to prevent diabetes. Had the pancreas been removed and the islet cells not infused, the patient would have been permanently insulin dependent.

The pancreas is a small organ located near the lower part of the stomach and the beginning of the small intestine. The organ produces enzymes essential for digestion and secretes insulin that helps control blood sugar levels.

Ohio State's comprehensive organ and tissue transplant program developed in the 1960s and today is one of the largest in the country for kidney and pancreas transplantation.