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Islet Cell Programme

Published on 14 October 2021

The Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS) works in collaboration with the Multi-Organ Transplant Unit at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh to deliver the Scottish National Pancreatic Islet Transplant Programme for the treatment of severe Type I diabetic patients who have lost their hypoglycaemic awareness.

Such patients have problems managing their blood sugar levels and can collapse without any warning when their blood sugar drops too far.

Treatment of such severe diabetes involves isolating islet cells (the cells which make and release insulin) from a donor pancreas and infusing them into the patient's liver. The aim of this treatment is to restore hypoglycaemic awareness and help patients to reduce their insulin requirements.

The SNBTS Islet Cell Laboratory is responsible for the complex preparation of islets extracted from a deceased donor's pancreas and their preparation for transplant.

The programme was established in 2011 and within the first 10 years there have been more than 110 islet cell transplants.