Tour of new UCSF Islet and Cellular Transplantation Facility

By Wallace Ravven

WHAT: UCSF’s recently completed Islet and Cellular Transplantation Facility, where insulin-secreting islet cells can be retrieved from a donated pancreas, will allow UCSF surgeons this fall to perform Northern California’s first islet transplantation - an experimental treatment that restores the ability of Type 1 diabetics to produce their own insulin.

In addition to providing facilities for isolating islet cells, the center will support a range of other treatments, from new cancer vaccines to gene therapy, each requiring human cells to be isolated, processed or modified in preparation for transplantation into patients. The islet isolation procedure and the preparations needed for the other treatments will be described on the tour.


  1855 FOLSOM
  6TH Floor
  (Enter on 15th St. between Folsom and Harrison)

WHO:  Tour will be led by JEFFREY BLUESTONE, PhD
A.W. and Mary Margaret Clausen Professor in Metabolism and Endocrinology
Director, Diabetes Center at UCSF, Co-director, UCSF Islet Transplantation Program
  UCSF Associate Professor of Surgery, Co-director, UCSF Islet Transplantation Program


Islet transplantation as a therapy for Type 1 diabetes has become dramatically more successful in the past three years. No transplants have been successfully performed in Northern California due to lack of facilities dedicated to isolating islet cells. The insulin-secreting cells are retrieved from a pancreas obtained through organ donation, and the cells must be transplanted into patients within 48 hours. The new UCSF islet facility will make this possible for the first time in Northern California. The islet cells are isolated from a pancreas in a five-to-six-hour procedure employing tissue-disrupting enzymes, cell separation and specialized centrifugation to yield a pure population of islets (less than 0.1 percent of the pancreas tissue). The islets stain red. Purified cells are cultured for 24-48 hours to ensure maximal purity, sterility and function before they are harvested and made available for transplantation.

The Islet and Cellular Transplantation Facility will provide human cells for a variety of treatments including use of dendritic cells and bone marrow for cancer vaccines; bone marrow cell transplantations to reduce rejection of a grafted organ or to restore immune system tolerance in auto-immune patients. The facility can also support gene therapy and, if federally approved, the use of stem cells for therapies.

One million people in the U.S. have Type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes, a disease in which the immune system destroys insulin-secreting islet cells. Patients face life-long insulin injections and risks of severe complications. Islet transplantations promise a permanent restoration of the ability to secrete insulin.

Human islet cell isolation is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. New cGMP (current Good Manufacturing Practices) to go in effect in 2004 require more stringent control of sterility, temperature, training, documentation and other protocols than in the past. UCSF’s new facility is designed to meet the new cGMP requirements and to allow a range of other applications.


Reporters, assignment editors: For more information, call (415) 476-2557.
Last-minute questions: page Wallace Ravven at (415) 719-4077.