OSAKA – Doctors at Osaka University Hospital last month successfully removed a chronically inflamed pancreas from a pancreatitis patient before separating the organ’s insulin-producing islets and transplanting them back into the patient, marking a new form of treatment, hospital officials said Wednesday.
Since the transplant the patient, in her 30s, who had been unable to eat due to her dysfunctional pancreas, has recovered well enough to eat normally, with her body producing insulin to control blood sugar, they said, adding she is expected to leave the hospital this month.
The treatment is expected to improve the quality of life of the patient, whose disease could have progressed to diabetes or cancer, although a pancreas transplant may become necessary in the future, said Toshinori Ito, professor at the university who performed the transplant.
There have been six cases of autologous islet transplants in Japan but all for patients who underwent pancreas removal for blood vessel ruptures or tumors, according to Ito. There was also a case in which donated pancreatic islets were transplanted into a patient with Type 1 diabetes.
The woman, whose disease was congenital, developed symptoms at age 5. She had trouble digesting and absorbing food as most of her pancreas had been removed after the organ began dissolving itself with digestive enzymes, the officials said.
In the operation, she had the remainder of her pancreas taken out, pancreatic islets separated and the islets transplanted into her liver by drip infusion. Tests afterward confirmed secretion of insulin, they said.
Further insulin is administered, though, to supplement the movement of islets.
The remainder of her pancreas was hard and extremely small, weighing only 36 grams, which is about one-fifth that of an adult pancreas, typically weighing 150 to 200 grams.
The woman has been repeatedly hospitalized, undergoing operations and being treated with medicines since her childhood.
She transferred to Osaka University Hospital last summer. As pain-relieving treatment was no longer effective on her, she decided to resort to the hospital’s transplant early last month.