There are two major types of diabetes – Type 1, where the body’s immune system has destroyed the pancreatic insulin-making beta-cells, and Type 2, where the body becomes resistant to the effects of insulin. Islet transplantation is presently only being tested in patients with Type 1 disease. While islet transplantation is still considered an experimental treatment at least in the United States, it has been shown to help a specific group of people with Type 1 Diabetes – those with a history of severe hypoglycemia and hypoglycemic unawareness. Although their have been many successful transplants there is a great need to assess how well transplanted islets perform their critical functions of producing insulin and maintaining normal blood sugar levels. For meaningful progress, clinicians everywhere must monitor and define islet function and other biological/medical results in the same way. To create these assessment protocols, uniform biomarkers and surrogate endpoints need to be established worldwide.
In 1999 the Penn-JDRF Center for Islet Transplantation was established by Dr. Naji at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Naji and his group performed their first islet transplantation in a human in September 2001.
Dr. Naji along with a multi-disciplinary team of surgeons, endocrinologist, immunologist, radiologist primary research focus is on islets, their isolation, preparation, functional evaluation, and imaging in the context of ongoing clinical trials. Another important step, was the employment of Positron Emission Tomography (PET) to image islets, enabling researchers to monitor islet function and examine other immune and metabolic markers after transplantation.
Ali Naji, MD, and his team have extended their focus on the role of B lymphocytes in the pathogenesis of T1D and organ transplant rejection. His group was one of the first to demonstrate the requisite role of B lymphocytes in the pathogenesis of islet inflammation. His large animal islet transplantation studies have demonstrated the efficacy of B lymphocyte targeting for the induction of long-term islet allograft tolerance in diabetic non-human primates. His team plans to determine the clinical efficacy of B lymphocyte directed immunotherapy as part of a cooperative NIH sponsored islet transplantation consortium.
For more information or if you are interested in participating in the trial please call 215-662-4449.