A scientist at the University of Lincoln is creating the largest ever collection of DNA from pancreas transplant donors and recipients to investigate how genetics affect transplantation in type 1 diabetes.
Dr. Matthew Simmonds has collected over 1,000 samples in the first project of its kind. The university hopes his research will make it possible to predict the success of individual grafts in future pancreas transplants. This will allow doctors to accurately assess if a pancreas transplant is beneficial for a patient.
Pancreas transplants are a successful treatment option for people with type 1 diabetes. The procedure can be valuable for type 1 patients with kidney failure or life-threatening severe hypoglycemia. A pancreas transplant is often combined with a kidney transplant to reduce progression of diabetes complications.
Following the transplant, a patient will need to take immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of their life, but this carries its own risks, such as increased vulnerability to infection and cancer. Moreover, one in five patients require further surgery just days after transplantation to address complications such as infection.
“Whole organ pancreas transplantation has the potential to provide life-long independence from insulin injections for people with type 1 diabetes who suffer poor glycemic control or severe secondary complications,” Simmonds told Lincolnshire Echo.
“While early complications are common after transplantatio, most operations are successful; however the function of the graft decreases over time. Loss of pancreas graft function can ultimately be fatal for transplant patients. Identifying ways of recognising how well they’ll work in the future is therefore key to improving survival.
“Currently it is not possible to predict when a graft is likely to fail, but our work aims to change this. We are examining the genomes of both the organ donor and the transplant patient to identify patterns which could point to whether or not the transplant will achieve lasting success.”
In previous research investigating kidney transplantatio, several potential genetic factors were identified that correlated with long-term graft function. Simmonds believes such genetic factors could lead to increased success within pancreas transplantation.

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