Diabetes is an autoimmune disorder of the endocrine system. The endocrine system is responsible for “regulating mood, growth and development, tissue function, metabolism, and sexual function and reproductive processes” (“Teens Health”). When a person has diabetes, his/ her pancreas either produces a reduced amount of insulin or no insulin at all. Insulin is a hormone needed to regulate the amount of glucose that enters the body’s cells. There are two main types of diabetes that affect people during normal everyday life, type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes was once called juvenile diabetes because its onset is early in life, usually before or during adolescence. People with type 1 diabetes produce no insulin, and are therefore insulin dependent from diagnosis. Type 1 diabetes is not hereditary, nor is it common. “Only 5% of people with diabetes have this form of the disease” (“Type 1- American Diabetes Association”). In type 2 diabetes “People produce insulin; however, either their pancreas does not produce enough insulin or the body cannot use the insulin adequately. This is called insulin resistance.” Type 2 diabetes is the most common type, “affecting 90% to 95% of the 26 million Americans with diabetes” (“Diabetes Health Center”). No matter the type of diabetes, its effects on the body are the same. Consistently high levels of glucose damage multiple organs and systems. These include, but are not limited to, the eyes, kidneys, nervous system, and circulatory system. The healing process is inhibited as well, causing longer periods of recovery from even simple illnesses. If glucose levels are steadily out of range, serious complications occur. Blindness, loss of limbs or feelings in extremities, and kidney disease are a few examples (Bora).
There is a variety of treatments that are used to combat the daily and long term effects of diabetes. These treatments range from common daily insulin injections to medically advanced transplantation of islet cells. “Throughout the pancreas are clusters of cells called the islets of Langerhans. Islets are made up of several types of cells, including beta cells that make insulin” (“Pancreatic Islet Transplantation-National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse”). Paul Langerhans is given credit for discovering islet cells in 1869 (“Islets of Langerhans- Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia”). Is the transplantation of islet cells really a viable solution for patients who suffer from type 1 diabetes?
In the process of islet cell transplantation, “Beta-islet cells are identified, isolated, and removed from donor pancreases and are injected into a major vein connected to the liver. The injected islets find their way into microscopic blood vessels and become surrounded and fixed in place by liver tissue. Once there, the cells take over insulin production and secretion, effectively turning the liver into a substitute pancreas” (Osterweil). Islet cell transplantation involves careful screening and selection of donors as well as recipients. This process can be long and extensive. Because of the risks involved, the best donor is a deceased individual. These risks include death or induced diabetes in the donor. If the donor is deceased, the islet cells of the pancreas can only be used if the donor and recipient are genetic matches, i.e. siblings, to the recipient, and the organ is not damaged. The recipient must be of a sound mind as well as generally good health besides having diabetes. Long-term complications from the disease should not be present at the time of transplantation. There are also age restrictions (Pileggi). Cost is another essential factor to consider. “Most costs are paid for by research programs. The patient usually pays for transportation, housing, and medicines after leaving the hospital” (Daveyduke). Therefore, the actual cost does not have a specific value, mainly