Diabetes Cure via Islet Cell Transplant

Groundbreaking treatment ‘cures’ diabetic (London Telegraph)

A groundbreaking cell transplant procedure has ‘cured’ a diabetic patient after 30 years of living with the illness. Richard Lane, a 61-year-old businessman from Bromley, Kent, is the first person in the UK to have a fully successful islet cell transplantation in a patient with Type 1 diabetes. Mr Lane said that he had never felt better. “I have to pinch myself to ensure I am not dreaming,” he said.

A team at King’s College Hospital, London performed three transplants of islet cells from the pancreases of dead donors. During his illness, Mr Lane suffered one black-out while driving, injuring his spine and needing major surgery. He has not had one attack since the first transplant and will be off insulin, which he has taken since 1976, in a few days.

Q&A: Diabetes transplant (BBC)

Q: What is an islet cell transplant? For the transplant, healthy islet cells are taken from pancreases from dead donors and injected into the patient’s liver. Once there, they develop their own blood supply and begin to produce insulin.
Q: Why doesn’t it cure all people with type 1 diabetes? The technique is not perfect. Mr Richard Lane of Bromley, Kent, no longer needs insulin injections after receiving three islet cell transplants. But many patients still require top-up insulin because the transplanted cells do not produce enough to control blood sugar.

Q: How long have islet cell transplants been around? The first procedure of this type was carried out in 2001. Canadian researchers were the first to demonstrate that people with type 1 diabetes could remain free of insulin injections after the treatment was complete. Two other patients in the UK have been treated with the procedure, but both still need small doses of insulin.

Q: Could everyone with type 1 diabetes receive an islet cell transplant soon? No. There is a big shortage of donor pancreases from which to extract islet cells. In the UK alone, about 250,000 people have type 1 diabetes. The technique is also still relatively new. This means there are only a limited number of healthcare professionals who can carry out the procedure.

Interesting news, indeed.

James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Eric says:

    As the article said, these have been going on in Canada and the US for a few years, with pretty good success. I believe some of the researchers are getting closer to single-donor transplants, which would obviously be a huge advantage.

    My wife and I talked about her volunteering for a study a few years ago, but we weren’t done having kids yet. Now that we are, we should look into it again.

  2. Jase says:

    This should not be marketted as a cure, it is not a cure in any way, shape or form.

    It is only beneficial to an extremely small percentage of type 1 diabetics, due to the fact that the immunosuppressive drugs one must go on after having the foreign dna islet cells transplanted, far outweigh any benefits of normalised insulin production, unless of course the patient has much bigger problems, eg. diabetic complications, or other, less treatable diseases that are taking much bigger tolls on them, this is why it is not useful to most type 1 diabetics.

    For those that need it, it is great, but it is not a cure.

    The label of ‘cure’ on procedures such as this, only help to put a proper cure further out of reach for type diabetics.