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From Ohio, USA:

My 15 year old daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes two weeks ago. Our doctor said there was no cure for this disease and that she will be have to take insulin shots the rest of her life. He also said that the average person can live with only 20% of their pancreas. If this is true, can I donate 50% of my pancreas to her? Since I am almost twice her size, 50% of my pancreas would be almost full size for her and I could live very well with half a pancreas.


It's a generous idea; but not really technically feasible.

Theoretically it should be possible to remove all of your pancreas and to supply you with digestive enzymes by mouth and with insulin by injection. The technic for transplanting a whole pancreas into your daughter is known and has proved remarkably successful The disadvantage is that she would need immunotherapy to prevent rejection and although this has much improved in recent years, whole organ transplantation at the moment is used only for diabetics with advanced renal disease. The operative risks would not be considered acceptable.

The technic of reimplanting the tail of one pancreas into an identical twin has been tried. It was unsuccessful for immunological reasons; but at a time when immunosuppressive therapy was much less sophisticated. The risks of surgery together with the possible complications of immunosuppression would still not justify the procedure in a 15 year old.

The approach most likely to succeed and one that may well be feasible one day would be to remove part of your pancreas, to separate out the islet cells and return them to your daughter in some way that protects them from the continuing autoimmune process.

You should talk these ideas over with your diabetes team, I need to emphasize that they are conjecture at the moment; but not beyond the bounds of possibility a decade from now. So, in the meantime, concentrate on good control with the constantly improving tools that are available.


[Editor's comment: For more information, see Pancreas Transplantation. WWQ]

Original posting 9 Nov 97


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Last Updated: Tuesday April 06, 2010 15:08:54
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