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Transplanting Islets of Langerhans Can Cure Type I Diabetes

Updated on April 17, 2022
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty has advanced degrees in preventive medicine and health psychology, with 35 years of work in allergy and other autoimmune treatment.


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 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.

This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2010 Patty Inglish MS


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