Islet Transplant

An islet transplant is a procedure in which islets, miniature insulin-secreting organs from the pancreas that are made up of thousands of cells and microscopic blood vessels, are infused into the tissues of your body (usually your liver) to help control diabetes. Diabetes can be both the cause and the result  of the destruction of insulin-producing islet cells; in type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune reaction destroys the islet cells’ ability to secrete insulin. Removal of your pancreas, from a common reason such as chronic pancreatitis, can be another path to diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is normally treated with a combination of changes in diet and eating habits and insulin-replacement therapy, but complications can arise if your diabetes is hard to control with these methods. Islet transplant offers a promising treatment for these types of patients.

The islets can be harvested from a donor pancreas (called allografts, the usual method for people with type 1 diabetes) or from your own pancreas (called autografts, the usual method for people who have their pancreas removed due to chronic pancreatitis). The islets are infused into your liver (or sometimes into other tissues), and the cells usually start producing insulin immediately. In an allograft procedure, you will require daily immune suppression medications to prevent rejection; when your own islets are used, you will not need immunosuppressants.

At the Houston Methodist J.C. Walter Jr. Transplant Center, our transplant team will help through all stages of treatment. Through collaboration with the Diabetes and Metabolic Disease Research Program, we are on the cutting edge of research into diabetes prevention and cure, exploring the functions of islet cells at the molecular level and devising advanced desensitization treatments to minimize rejection.

Click to learn about what to expect before and after islet transplant surgery.  

Patient Stories  
Perhaps the best way to learn about our highly trained islet transplant specialists, the compassionate environment and innovative treatments offered at the Houston Methodist J.C. Walter Jr. Transplant Center is through our patients. Link to the inspiring story below to learn more about being a patient at Houston Methodist.


Our physicians specialize in islet transplantation at the following locations.

Our physicians conduct pre and posttransplant evaluations at the following convenient locations.