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The Islet Transplant Research Group (ITRG) is led by Professor Paul Johnson. Our team performs innovative research aimed at optimising all stages of the human islet isolation and transplantation process. This includes: the optimisation of islet extraction, enhancement of islet activity by preconditioning prior to transplantation and the isolation of islet cells from the immune system using encapsulation devices. Islet segregation from the immune system is a critical step in allowing islet transplantation to become available to children, as it relinquishes the need for lifelong immunosuppression. 

Extensive Human Tissue Biobank

The ITRG benefits from the exclusive use of a comprehensive human tissue biobank, containing pancreatic tissue and islet samples for research use, collected from a wide range of donors. Biopsies are obtained from all organs that are received by the facility, which have the appropriate written research consent. This has allowed our group to build a power bioresource, which contains an extensive tissue sample portfolio that spans over a decade. Such samples are an invaluable asset for our research.   

Some of our current and ongoing research projects are highlighted below. 

Optimising islet survival and function after transplantation (Re-establishing of the peri-islet pancreatic matrix)

Effective and highly active enzyme blends quickly disperses all exocrine, ductal and vascular components of the pancreas. The dissociation of the non-endocrine structures includes also the islet basement membrane which is the most relevant peri-islet barrier serving as a communication interface between islets, blood vessels, nerves and acinar cells, to maintain the functional and structural integrity of native islets. The loss of the islet basement membrane has significant implications on the survival of isolated islets outside their native environment. Our current work is directed to replace the natural islet basement membrane by recombinant extracellular matrix proteins, namely collagen, laminin and nidogen. We could demonstrate that these matrix proteins are highly efficient to protect islet integrity in a hypoxic harmful environment as found after transplantation. Due to the enormous complexity of the native islet basement membrane, more efforts are required in the future to transfer our findings into a clinical setting. Dr Daniel and Dr Heide Brandhorst lead this research subtheme. 


Latest publications