Research & Innovation
Islet Cell Autotransplantation
The MUSC Pancreas Surgery Program of Excellence is one of the few medical institutions in the world that can transplant islet cells from a patient's pancreas to the portal vein of the liver so the islet cells can live on and produce insulin (islet autotransplantation).
We work with MUSC's Center for Cellular Therapy - what is called a "clean lab" - to provide this option when a patient's pancreas is removed (pancreatectomy) to resolve the excruciating pain and challenges of pancreatitis. The goal of preserving the islet cells is to prevent the onset of brittle diabetes that would otherwise be caused by insulin imbalance.
MUSC began to transplant pancreatic islet cells in 2009 and is the second busiest program in the country. While the technique previously has been used in a limited fashion since the 1970s, few facilities are capable of offering it, and none of the others have embraced the opportunities it presents for improving the lives of patients with chronic pancreatitis as MUSC has.
Because of the skill and experience of our pancreas team, we are able to rid patients of tumors that would otherwise be deemed “inoperable.” Medical and radiation oncologists work to shrink the tumors to the point that they can be removed by our surgeons, who are capable of resecting challenging tumors even when they must do advanced reconstruction of the arteries or other surrounding systems. Long-term survival rates increase by three times as a result.