MUHC designated first provincial establishment for islet cell transplants for patients with type 1 diabetes

Non-invasive procedure allows patients to live without fear of severe hypoglycemia and even without insulin injections.

This story was written by the RI-MUHC and originally published on their website.

The McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) is proud to announce its official designation, by the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MSSS), as the first establishment in the province to offer islet cell transplants – a non-invasive procedure that is a significant advancement in the treatment of type 1 diabetes. The MUHC has been the leader in the development of this unique medical expertise in Quebec, thanks to the dedicated work of research and clinical teams.

Type 1 diabetes results from the inability of the pancreas to produce enough insulin, which can lead to a significant disruption of blood sugar regulation in the body. The disease requires lifelong monitoring of blood sugar and daily insulin injections to prevent serious long-term complications, such as blindness, stroke, kidney failure and cardiovascular disease. The islet cell transplant corrects this condition in severely ill patients. An estimated 300,000 Canadians live with type 1 diabetes.

In 2015, the MUHC conducted the first islet cell transplant in Quebec, a procedure in which islets of Langerhans – the clusters of pancreatic cells that produce insulin – are isolated from a donor’s pancreas and infused into a patient’s liver through a small catheter in the abdomen. After only a few weeks, the patient is able to produce insulin and eventually, becomes insulin-independent.

Dr. Steven Paraskevas is director of the MUHC Pancreas and Islet Transplantation Program and is a member of the Metabolic Disorders and Complications Program at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC).

Dr. Steven Paraskevas, director of the MUHC Pancreas and Islet Transplantation Program, heads the MUHC Human Islet Transplantation Laboratory, where islets are isolated and evaluated. The knowledge and expertise developed in this laboratory pave the way for the work of other clinicians.

“The growth and development of this program has been a success story of collaboration between many researchers and medical professionals, supported by the vision and leadership of the MUHC,” says Dr. Paraskevas. “We would also like to acknowledge the precious contribution of the MUHC Foundation and the Montreal General Hospital Foundation, whose donations enabled us to develop this program and be officially designated as the hospital to offer this procedure for Quebec.”


An expansion of care

Since the first procedure, the MUHC team led by Dr. Paraskevas continued to develop its medical expertise at the MUHC Human Islet Transplant Laboratory, located at McGill University. Ten transplants have been performed and their effects have been carefully studied. The new designation will allow the MUHC to improve access to this procedure and to be able to treat many more individuals.

“We are so proud that after years of work and persistence, the MUHC will be able to continue providing this life-altering therapy,” says Dr. Liane Feldman, MUHC Surgeon-in-chief. “This procedure makes a significant difference in the lives of diabetic patients. Our goal is to grow the program so that more Quebecers can benefit in the years to come.”

Support for the development of this clinical program was provided by the McGill University Health Centre Foundation, the Montreal General Hospital Foundation, the Research Institute of the MUHC, Transplant Quebec and the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

Learn more on the MUHC Human Islet Transplant Laboratory on their website.

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