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Transplanting Islets of Langerhans Can Cure Type I Diabetes

Updated on September 7, 2018
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty uses advanced degrees in preventive medicine and health psychology in research and treatment for public and private health agencies.


What Are Islets of Langerhans?

Human biology information is very much better dispensed today than it was several years ago and this helps us find better treatments and even cures for a number of conditions.

In a public elementary school, my classmates and I were incorrectly taught that the "Isles of Langerhans" were 2 sizable glands that sit on the underside of the pancreas.Today, we are shocked by that misinformation.

During the same year, we were taught that all human males have one fewer rib on their left sides, because Eve came from the side of Adam. It is funny that the X-rays we found in biology books in the library did not match that teaching.

Also during the same year, we learned that the kiwi bird was extinct. Then I saw a dozen of them in the National Zoo. Thinking them taxidermied, I jumped when they all moved.

Famous People Have Diabetes, Too

The islets are not two glands but several clusters of cells throughout the pancreas that account for about 1-2% of its makeup.The absence of these clusters equals Type I Diabetes, the condition in which the body has never been able to make insulin. The condition was previously called "Childhood Diabetes" and was often discovered in childhood years.

Comedian and muscular dystrophy cure advocate Jerry Lewis has had Type I Diabetes his whole life, but was not diagnosed until well into adulthood.

As a television movie of his life, Martin and Lewis (2002), showed, colleagues thought he was faking illness when he was, indeed, ill with diabetic events. Unfortunately, the movie seems to support the colleagues' belief. Diabetics are often misunderstood, disbelieved, and even given bad advice from friends and family. Diabetes has killed people and it will kill more people before we perfect cure.

As a television movie of Jerry Lewis's life showed, colleagues thought he was faking illness when he was, indeed, ill with diabetic events. Unfortunately, the movie seemed to support the colleagues' belief. Mr. Lewis went on to raise $Billions for muscular dystrophy research and in 2015, the Library of Congress began the Jerry Lewis Collection with 1,000 items of films and other works.

Human Digestive System highlights.
Human Digestive System highlights. | Source

Transplantation in Diabetic Cases

Futurist writer Harlan Ellison® has a web page dedicated to him called Islets of Langerhans- certainly meant to point out the sugar-coating the media placed on news items they wished to bury in the 1970s and even today. Ellison even wrote a short story about the pancreas and the soul, understanding the significance of the pancreas and human health.

The cell clusters in the pancreas produce insulin that the body needs to process sugar, of which there is no Standard Daily Requirement. We do not need sugar at all.

A pancreas implant, usually paired with a kidney transplant in a diabetic human beyond all other hope, can cure Type I and Type II Diabetes. Transplantation of the Islets of Langerhans is a simpler procedure, accomplished with a large-bore hypodermic needle. That process is under development at this time. An artificial pancreas (especially via 3D printing) or one grown from pig-powder matrix material may be a plausible alternative.

Transplanting a large number of Islets of Langerhans from a donor pancreas can produce positive results and clinical trials are gathering additional research in order to perfect these techniques.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Pancreatic Cells. Lithograph produced from Gray's Anatomy. Pancrease Model
Pancreatic Cells. Lithograph produced from Gray's Anatomy.
Pancreatic Cells. Lithograph produced from Gray's Anatomy.
Pancrease Model
Pancrease Model | Source

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)

NIDDK reports that the Islets of Langerhans may be successfully transplanted. In clinical trials, a massive number of islets are extracted from an organ donor's pancreas and implanted into a patient suffering Type I Diabetes.

After a certain time period, the beta cells within the islets begin to produce insulin. Research has been collected regarding this set of procedures since 2000 or earlier, but the procedures may have been conceptualized in the 18th or 19th Centuries.

Research is pointing to the fact that at least 1,000,000 islets are required to take the place of daily injections of insulin, and examining the success of artificial membranes to hold the islets in a sort of bioengineered pancreas, and the efficacy of transplanting pig islets.

New Islet and Stem Cell Transplant Therapies

Impact on Future Research

Research suggests that even after a successful transplant of islets, the pancreas can be affected adversely by unwise health choices, such as ingesting too much alcohol, smoking, and the usual obesity and lack of exercise.However, pig cells as well as human cells for transplant work well.

It could be possible to have Type I Diabetes, be cured by an Islets of Langerhans implantation, and then to develop Type II Diabetes from the poor health choices listed above.

As the film Repo Men tells us, transplantation is not enough, but is best a part of a healthy life in which wiser choices are made. Additional research is needed to develop diabetes-reversing transplant technologies that are affordable and widely avaiable to all who need them.

The Islets of Langerhans In Futurist Literature

"Adrift Just Off the Islets of Langerhans: Latitude 38° 54' N, Longitude 77° 00' 13" W" is an award winning short work in included in the book "Deathbird Stories" by famous author Harlan Ellison.

Sources (Pancreas and Insulin Research)

  • Liua,X; et. al. Continuous, but Not Occasional, Oral Ethanol Intake Reduces the Success of Intraportal Transplanted Islets of Langerhans: An Experimental Study. Retrieved May 4, 2011.
  • Teramura, Y.; Minh, L.N.; Kawamoto, T. ; and Iwata, H. Microencapsulation of Islets with Living Cells Using PolyDNA-PEG-Lipid Conjugate, Bioconjugate Chemistry 2010 21 (4), 792-796 DOI: 10.1021/bc900494x

  • OnTrack Diabetes.10 Things People with Diabetes Should Know About Islet Cell Transplants; Retrieved September 7, 2018.
  • Valdés-González RA, Xenotransplantation of porcine neonatal islets of Langerhans and Sertoli cells: a 4-year study. Transplant from pig to human. European Journal of Endocrinology; 2005 Sep;153(3):419-27. Retrieved September 7, 2018.

© 2010 Patty Inglish MS


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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      5 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      In 2016, we are seeing cures of Type I Diabetes in Cincinnati Children's Hospital, but follow-up over time will tell us how long the cure works well.

    • Support Med. profile image

      Support Med. 

      10 years ago from Michigan

      There is so much involved in our good health; genetic make-up, our choices (a big one) and as Seakay said, knowledge of the thyroid which affects every system of the body, including the brain. Our choices, as you stated, have a lot to do with it (even with the involvement of genetics). Voted and rated.

    • Seakay profile image


      10 years ago from Florida

      The thyroid plays a major part in your entire make-up. I thought I was going crazy and it took forever to get a diasnosis. I ended up having Hypothyroidism. Not fun and very dangerous.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 

      10 years ago from South Carolina

      Hi Patty,

      Great article cleverly written on an important, yet seldom covered topic. Love the graphics and the opening paragraph. It's amazing how much of what we learned in school was incorrect. I voted you up for originality, content usefulness and for bringing attention to a relatively new medical achievement!

    • someonewhoknows profile image


      10 years ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio

      The Thyroid plays a major role in diabetes

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      10 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      shzwellyn - Good health to your son and your family! The stem-cell work in this area is new to me. Your link is a goo done for us to have. I'll read it and material about the study, so thanks very much for sharing this information.

      Eiddwen - I do hope it's helpful. Thanks for posting.

    • Eiddwen profile image


      10 years ago from Wales

      Thanks for sharing this well researched hub.

      My partner has type 2 diabetes and any new reading material is welcome. I am giving this a useful and bookmarking so that I can get to it easily for reference.

      Take care Patty.

    • shazwellyn profile image


      10 years ago from Great Britain

      My family are part of the Bart Oxford study for type 1 diabetes - a world leader in research. My son was one of the youngest in Britain to have developed the condition.

      Actually, there are people who are walking around (Washington) with this transplant (source: Balance, Diabetes UK 2001).

      They are creating these cells from stem cells - unfortunately, the USA are anti in this field of research (creating cells from embryos), but the UK are world leaders in this with great success.

      This is one of my specialist areas and it might benefit your readers to read my course on this very subject. I taught this to A-Level students for my further ed qualification.

      It always amazes me that these tiny cells, of around a dozen, can create such devistating results when they die. We have very nearly lost our son on numerous occasions - if only we could have this transplant, without the anti rejection drugs (the effects of which can be just as bad as with the condition - high risk of cancer etc).

      Thank you soooo much for helping to raise more awareness in this - unless you have lived with someone with this condition, no one can conceive the cruelty that this disease can create.

    • bayareagreatthing profile image


      10 years ago from Bay Area California

      Wow that is great information. It would be a great break through for Diabetes sufferers. Thanks for the great hub!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      10 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Hello hello - Best wishes for coming through the surgery without complications. At first glance, I don't think your pancreas should be affected by the surgery, but ask your surgeon what he thinks for added assurance, because he is your own personal expert. I think that your medical professionals will be following up with your for chjanges in blood chemistry aftre surgrey; ask them about blood sugar/glucose levels. It is smart of you to think about this and ask the question about liver-pancreatic involvement.

      ladyt11 - Within 2 years, 2 friends in different states sxperienced this as well, terrifying their wives. They were helped by the EMTs that arrived, though. Another acquaintance suffered a drop in blood sugar and electrolytes all at once and suffered delusions that kept him hospitalized a frew days. He was miserable, but was helped with the proper IV soultions. Diabetes is really no lighteight matter. Thanks for posting.

      Now, if enough people can afford the injection of islets with insurance coverage, this might be a big help.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      This is a great article. I am diabetic, type 2 and it is basically controlled by diet. I do take pills to help control my diabetes. My mom has diabetes also and she is always crashing, two weeks ago her sugar level was 32. We found her on the floor of her apartment unresponsive, needless to say we were very upset because we didn't even know how long she had been this way. It was the grace of God that kept her. This information really hits close to home for me, any articles that you write on diabetes would be much appreciated. Thanks for this informative hub.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      10 years ago from London, UK

      Hello, Patty, thank you for a very timely hub because I am having a liver operation removing a non-cancerous fibroyd from the bottom of my liver. Would that effect my pancrass? I hope I don't end up with diabetes. Maybe you would be so kind and shed some more light on all this.

    • travel_man1971 profile image

      Ireno Alcala 

      10 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      This is what I've found out:

      In an experimental procedure called islet transplantation, islets are taken from the pancreas of a deceased organ donor. The islets are purified, processed, and transferred into another person. Once implanted, the beta cells in these islets begin to make and release insulin. Researchers hope that islet transplantation will help people with type 1 diabetes live without daily injections of insulin.

      Hope it helps, Patty. :D


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