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Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism (OCDEM), Churchill Hospital, Oxford OX3 7LE

Rebecca Spiers

BSc (Hons), DPhil (Ox)

Islet Facility Manager

  • Post-doctoral Research Scientist

I am responsible for managing the Clinical Islet Isolation Facility and the associated personnel. This is a purpose built, clean-room laboratory, licenced by the Human Tissue Authority for the aseptic production of pancreatic islet cells from deceased donor pancreases. The islets are used for transplantation in patients with Type 1 diabetes who have unstable diabetes with severe complications.

The facility operates to pharmaceutical grade GMP standards. I have to ensure that the facility meets all operational and environmental targets of cleanliness & sterility and that all the preparations used for transplant in turn meet strict production criteria.

When islets cannot be transplanted and where there is research consent, I coordinate their distribution for research purposes. They are used by several groups in Oxford and a network of laboratories across the UK.

I completed my DPhil with NDS. My research aims to optimise the human islet extraction process by defining the structure and composition of the islet extracellular matrix (ECM). The ECM that surrounds the islet must be effectively digested by enzymes to facilitate the liberation of free islets from the pancreas for transplantation. Specifically, I am interested in how this digestion process is influenced by donor age, given that isolating islets from younger donors pancreases remains an extreme technical challenge.