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Solid organ transplantation

Published on 17 August 2022

Islet cell transplantation

The Islet Cell Transplantation Service is for people over the age of 16 living with type 1 diabetes and hypoglycaemic unawareness (sudden drop in blood sugar). It is considered when diabetic control is difficult using insulin therapy.

The service is based at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh.

Treatment pathways

A number of treatment pathways involve islet transplants:

  • islet alone transplant will be considered for those with type 1 diabetes and severe hypoglycaemic unawareness but normal or near-normal renal function
  • simultaneous islet and kidney transplant will be considered for those with renal failure and insulin-dependent diabetes
  • islet after kidney transplant may be considered if a patient has had a kidney transplant that functions but also has insulin dependent diabetes

What is islet cell transplantation?

It's a minor procedure where islet cells are taken from the pancreas of a deceased donor. This process occurs in a laboratory ahead of the procedure. Transfer of the cells into the liver of someone with type 1 diabetes and severe hypoglycemia is then possible.

Destruction of insulin-producing cells in the islets of the pancreas causes type 1 diabetes. Insulin is a hormone the pancreas makes to regulate blood glucose (sugar) levels. It allows the body to use sugar from carbohydrates in food for energy, or to store glucose for future use. It stops blood sugar levels from becoming too high (hyperglycemia) or too low (hypoglycemia).

Further information about islet cell transplant services is available on the Edinburgh Transplant website.

Lead clinician

John Casey, Consultant Transplant Surgeon, Edinburgh


Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh
51 Little France Crescent
EH16 4SA

NSD contact

NSD Specialist Services

Please note that NSD does not directly provide medical services and we won't be able to answer queries about your own care or appointments. If you would like to discuss any aspects of your care, please contact your primary healthcare provider. This might be your GP, Consultant, Nurse or other healthcare professional. They will be best placed to give you the right advice.