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Islet transplantation has become established as a successful treatment for type 1 diabetes complicated by recurrent severe hypoglycemia. In the UK access has been limited to a few centrally located units. Our goal was to validate a quality-assured system for safe/effective transport of human islets in the UK and to successfully undertake the first transplants with transported islets. Pancreases were retrieved from deceased donors in the north of England and transported to King's College London using two-layer method (TLM) or University of Wisconsin solution alone. Islets were isolated and transported back to Newcastle in standard blood transfusion or gas-permeable bags with detailed evaluation pre- and posttransport. In the preclinical phase, islets were isolated from 10 pancreases with mean yield of 258,000 islet equivalents. No significant differences were seen between TLM and University of Wisconsin solution organ preservation. A significant loss of integrity was demonstrated in islets shipped in gas-permeable bags, whereas sterility, number, purity, and viability were maintained in blood transfusion bags. Maintenance of secretory granules and glucose-stimulated insulin secretion was confirmed following transport. A Standard Operating Procedure enabling final pretransplant quality control from a simple side-arm sample was validated. Moreover, levels of insulin and cytokines in transport medium were low, enabling transplant without centrifugation/resuspension at the recipient site. Six clinical transplants of transported islets were undertaken in five recipients with 100% primary graft function and resolution of severe hypoglycemia. Safe and clinically effective islet transport has been established facilitating sustainable NHS funding of a clinical islet transplant program for the UK.

Original publication




Journal article


Cell Med

Publication Date





97 - 104


Glucose-stimulated insulin secretion, Islet isolation, Islet transplant, Islet transport, Type 1 diabetes