Diabetic donor injection is proper lifesaver

Kimberley Hall, an Islet transplant patient. Picture: Julie Bull
Kimberley Hall, an Islet transplant patient. Picture: Julie Bull
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A PIONEERING Edinburgh-led transplant treatment for diabetics has been hailed as a success after it cured 12 people of a life-threatening complication in their condition.

The innovative treatment sees islet cells taken from a donor’s pancreas at a laboratory in Liberton, which is the only specialist facility of its kind in Britain.

They are then injected into a patient’s liver at the transplant centre in the Royal Infirmary.

All 12 patients undergoing the transplants are now able to tell when their blood sugar levels are falling.

Previously, they had no awareness of when their sugar levels were becoming dangerously low, putting them at risk of a hypoglycemic attack and falling into a potentially deadly coma.

After the islet cells – which make and release insulin – are injected into a patient’s liver they may no longer need to inject insulin themselves. Under the programme, which is funded by the Scottish Government at a cost of £900,000 a year, the work of separating and extracting human islets from the deceased donors is carried out at the Liberton base in a completely sterile setting.

There was some scepticism about the programme’s cost when it was launched. Six patients received one cell infusion and six receiving two since the first transplant in February last year.

Scotland’s Health Secretary, Alex Neil, backed the service, with hopes more of the estimated 2000 of Scotland’s 28,000 diabetics who are unable to tell when their blood sugar levels are low, can now be helped.

Mr Neil said: “This exciting programme has shown that it has the potential to transform the lives of people with this condition, and I hope it will continue to benefit many more patients in the future.”