14th World Congress of the International Pancreas and Islet Transplant Association – Monterey, California – September 2013

Thanks to the generous travel grant from the Simon Wolff Charitable Foundation I was able to attend the International Pancreas and Islet Transplant Association 13th Congress in Monterey, California. The IPITA meeting is held every two years and is the premier meeting concerning the use of pancreas or islet cell transplantation as a therapy for type 1 diabetes mellitus.

The pancreas has both exocrine and endocrine functions. The exocrine functions are carried out by cells which product digestive enzymes for the gut. The endocrine functions are performed by the islets of Langerhans which are little clusters of cells found through the pancreas responsible for the monitoring and control of blood glucose levels.

Patients suffering from type I diabetes mellitus have experienced an autoimmune reaction leading to the loss of the insulin-producing ? cells in the islets of Langerhans. In many cases these patients use daily injections of insulin to control their blood sugar levels. In a few cases patients may have insufficient sugar level control through the use of insulin injections alone. This can lead to life-threatening complications. Islet cell transplantation in these patients has been shown to improve their quality of life and in some cases removes the need for daily insulin injections. Islet cell transplantation is a multi-step process involving the extraction of islets from the pancreas of a deceased donor and then transplanting them into the recipient patient. This method of replacing insulin-producing ? cells in patients with type I diabetes has a few benefits over the alternative method of whole pancreas transplantation. Islet transplantation is minimally invasive and it can be performed under local anaesthetic. Patients also tend to have shorter hospital stays than those receiving whole pancreas transplants.

I gave two oral presentations at the Congress. My first talk concerned the enzymatic processes involved during the islet isolation procedure. My work here may go some way to improving the islet isolation procedure and increase our transplantation rate. My second talk concerned donor age and gender effects on the success rate of clinical islet isolations in our facility in Oxford. This was a retrospective analysis to determine factors that may be crucial to our rate of isolation success. I was able to discuss my findings with delegates from Europe, North America, Australia, Japan and Brazil. I was also able to keep abreast with current clinical developments and new research. This will help direct my research further as well as having a direct impact on the clinical islet isolation programme.

While in California, I was also able to visit the islet isolation facility at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). The team there have a higher success rate in terms of islet transplantation. It was only from being there and being able to observe and ask questions about how their procedure differs from ours that I have been able to gain a number of strategies to enhance our own clinical programme in Oxford. The generous donation from the Simon Wolff Charitable Foundation will help toward having a real effect on islet transplantation in the UK as a therapy for patients with type I diabetes who suffer from life-threatening complications. It is not only through allowing me to travel that I would like to thank the SWCF, but also on behalf of those who will benefit from improvements in the islet isolation procedure.

Dr Paul Bateman
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Islet Transplant Research Group
Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences
University of Oxford

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