Scientists create mini pancreas in the abdomen that reverses insulin dependence

by Barbara Hewitt on May 12, 2017

Scientists have successfully created a ‘mini’ pancreas in tissue in the abdomen which reversed long term insulin dependence in a patient with type 1 diabetes.

It involved transplanting pancreatic islet cells in the omentum, an apron-like tissue that cover the abdominal organs which can be easily accessed without invasive surgery and has the same blood supply and physiological drainage characteristics as the pancreas.


It is already known that islet transplants can restore natural insulin production and eliminate severe hypoglycaemia in people with type 1 diabetes, but this is usually in the liver which is more invasive.

The team from the Diabetes Research Institute (DRI) at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine have produced the first clinical results demonstrating that pancreatic islet cells transplanted within a tissue engineered platform can successfully engraft and achieve insulin independence in type 1 diabetes.

Their work is ongoing to test this novel strategy as an important step toward offering life changing cell replacement therapy to millions living with the disease.

‘The objective of testing this novel tissue-engineered platform is to initially determine that insulin-producing cells can function in this new site, and subsequently introduce additional technologies towards our ultimate goal to replace the pancreatic endocrine function lost in type 1 diabetes without the need for anti-rejection drugs,’ said Camillo Ricordi, professor of Medicine, Biomedical Engineering, Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Miami Miller School.

He explained that it was the first successful tissue engineered ‘mini pancreas’ that has achieved long term insulin independence in a patient with type 1 diabetes. The biological platform was made by combining donor islets with the patient’s own blood plasma, which was laparoscopically layered onto the omentum.

Clinical grade thrombin was then layered over the islet/plasma mixture. Together, these substances create a gel like material that sticks to the omentum and holds the islets in place. Over time, the body will absorb the gel, leaving the islets intact and the technique has been designed to minimise the inflammatory reaction that is normally observed when islets are implanted in the liver or in other sites with immediate contact to blood.

The team believes it is an important first step toward developing what they call a BioHub mini organ which includes the immunosuppressive regimen currently used for clinical islet transplantation studies.

‘The results thus far have shown that the omentum appears to be a viable site for islet implantation using this new platform technique. Data from our study and long term follow up of additional omental islet transplants will determine the safety and feasibility of this strategy of islet transplantation, but we are quite excited about what we are seeing now,’ said lead author David Baidal, assistant professor of Medicine and member of the DRI’s Clinical Cell Transplant team.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Ivan May 15, 2017 at 4:52 am

Another long term follow up needed?


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