In January 2010, SVI’s Dr Tom Loudovaris gently packaged precious insulin-producing islets that had been isolated from a donor pancreas into a container for transport to Adelaide. When the package arrived at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, the islets were infused into an Adelaide woman, Margaret Harrigan.
In June 2010 she received her second islet transplant at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, and shortly after she became insulin independent.
August 26th marks 6 years of insulin independence for Margaret, who had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes 36 years earlier.
The transplants were performed as part of the Australian Islet Transplantation Program, which involves SVI in collaboration with St. Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne and the Royal Adelaide and Westmead Hospitals.
“My life is so incredibly free, my husband Kerry and I have been living in the Riverland of South Australia for over 4 years now,” Margaret said. “I was able to return to teaching and have been teaching students from Reception to Yr. 7 and loving it. I consider myself the luckiest person in the world because of my islet transplants.”
In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas ceases to produce insulin which must be administered several times a day, lifelong, to reduce blood sugar to healthy levels. In some people, this insulin treatment can drop blood sugar levels to dangerous levels without warning, which may lead to a life-threatening loss of consciousness. The ITP is currently aimed at this group of people but with further research may lead to a more generally available clinical procedure.
The ITP is supported through the Nationally Funded Centre Program.