Quality of life for people with type 1 diabetes who had frequent severe hypoglycemia — a potentially fatal low blood glucose (blood sugar) level — improved consistently and dramatically following transplantation of insulin-producing pancreatic islets, according to findings published online March 21 in Diabetes Care.
[Photo: Dr. Eric Foster]
Dr. Eric Foster, clinical assistant professor of biostatistics at the University of Iowa College of Public Health, is the corresponding author of the paper, and the Clinical Trials Statistical and Data Management Center at the UI served as the clinical and data coordinating center for the study.
The results come from a Phase 3 clinical trial funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), both part of the National Institutes of Health.
The greatest improvements were seen in diabetes-related quality of life. Islet recipients also reported better overall health status after transplant, despite the need for lifelong treatment with immune-suppressing drugs to prevent transplant rejection. Researchers observed these improvements even among transplant recipients who still required insulin therapy to manage their diabetes.
The trial enrolled 48 people with type 1 diabetes who had hypoglycemia unawareness — an impaired ability to sense drops in blood glucose levels — and experienced frequent episodes of severe hypoglycemia despite receiving expert care.
Previously reported clinical outcomes from the trial showed that islet transplantation prevents severe hypoglycemia and improves blood glucose awareness and control. The study was conducted by the NIH-funded Clinical Islet Transplantation Consortium.
“Although insulin therapy is life-saving, type 1 diabetes remains an extremely challenging condition to manage,” said NIAID director, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, “For people unable to safely control type 1 diabetes despite optimal medical management, islet transplantation offers hope for improving not only physical health but also overall quality of life.”