Success Stories

Diabetic Without Insulin

Why Type 1 Diabetic Jan L. No Longer Needs Insulin


Jan was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when she was a teenager. But after years of easily managing her disease, she realized when she entered medical school that she could no longer feel the symptoms of low blood sugar. "Testing numerous times a day saved me. I would catch myself with a blood sugar of 28, and yet felt almost nothing ." 

While looking for place to volunteer, Jan came across the work being done by Dr. Jose Oberholzer. She first dismissed the possibility of a transplant due to the side effect of immunosuppression (which is a reduction in the efficiency of the immune system) but after meeting with Dr. Oberholzer, Jan agreed to have an islet (which is a cluster of insulin-producing cells) transplant. It was a breakthrough procedure designed to prevent many of the devastating effects of long-term Type 1 diabetes. 

Jan received her transplant in 2011 and continues to be symptom-free of diabetes, considering she hasn't required an insulin shot since then. The young doctor is now finishing her medical residency. "I can't imagine how I would have survived the intense schedule and work load if I was suffering from low blood sugar. I am incredibly thankful and words are not enough. I can only hope that others realize the magnitude of this procedure and support the efforts to cure diabetes." Jan has said in regards to the procedure.

Dr. Jose Oberholzer has established in record time a first-class human islet isolation and transplantation program. In his first clinical trial, 10 of 10 diabetic patients who received islet cell transplants achieved insulin-independence. Islet cell transplantation offers promise of a cell-based, functional cure for diabetes. Transplanted islet cells quickly begin to act as insulin factories, allowing recipients to live insulin-free. By placing the islet cells in protective capsules, there is hope that transplant recipients will not need immunosuppressive drugs to prevent rejection. Future research to prove these concepts will pave the way for widespread clinical application of a cell-based cure for diabetes. The research is now focused on overcoming the remaining obstacles to islet transplantation.

Why is this important? In the last 20 years, a vast amount of scientific knowledge has been gathered about how insulin-producing cells develop, function and survive in the normal human body and how they become compromised and destroyed in diabetic patients. In recent years, interest in diabetes has intensified because it is nearing epidemic proportions: in 1985 there were 30 million diabetics; today that number has rocketed to more than 194 million. By 2025, diabetes is likely to affect 300 million people worldwide.


Dr. Jose Oberholzer performed this remarkable surgery.