The enthusiasm regarding clinical islet transplantation has been dampened by the long-term results. Concerns about the associated risks of life-long immunosuppression and the striking imbalance between potential recipients and available donor pancreata warrant changes in some of the current goals.
Islet transplantation will never be a cure of type 1 diabetes in the majority of patients with no secondary complications, but is a valid option for a limited number of patients with brittle diabetes waiting for an organ or after organ transplantation. Furthermore, insulin independence should not be the main goal of islet transplantation, but avoidance of severe hypoglycemia and good glycemic control, which can be achieved with a relatively small functional beta-cell mass. Therefore, initially one islet infusion is sufficient. Retransplantation at a later time point remains an option, if glucose control deteriorates.
Efforts to improve islet transplantation should no longer focus on islet isolation and immunosuppression, but rather on the low posttransplant survival rate of islets caused by activation of the coagulation pathway and the limited oxygen delivery to the islets. Transplantation of smaller islets be it naturally small or size tailored reaggregated islets has the potential to facilitate these processes.