Currently, outside of regular insulin injections, the only way to restore normal blood glucose levels in people with type 1 diabetes (without the risk of low blood sugar) is to replace their islets. Today, the Schulze Diabetes Institute, together with University of Minnesota Medical Center, is one of the leading centers studying the transplantation of islets of Langerhans (cells that produce insulin) as a way to cure type 1 diabetes.
Islet transplant does not require major surgery. The procedure is performed with local anesthetic and mild sedation and takes about one hour. The islets are injected into the liver, where they secrete insulin directly into the circulatory system to control blood glucose levels. After the procedure, patients take medications to prevent their immune system from attacking the newly transplanted islets.
We are pleased with our success so far. In clinical trials at the University of Minnesota, more than 90 percent of participants remain protected from severe hypoglycemia and 80 percent eliminated their need for insulin, with half remaining insulin independent at five years, including some who are now more than 10 years insulin free.