The research group was established at the Institute of Surgical Research in 2005 and has focused on the development of new strategies to counteract the harmful effects of islet cells before transplantation, and to strengthen islet growth and function after transplantation. In 2009, the first doctorate in the group was published (Tormod Lund) and a master's degree in 2008 (Ingrid Aursnes Stølen).
Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune disease caused by destruction of the alpha- and beta cells in the pancreas. Prevention of T1D is hampered by the fact that the actual mechanism of cell destruction is largely unknown. Standard of care in T1D is life-long therapy with exogenous insulin. In spite of optimal insulin therapy (including digital insulin pump devices and subcutaneous glucose sensors), periods of hyperglycemia induce serious vascular- and neurological complications, such as accelerated arteriosclerosis, kidney failure and impaired vision.
Clinical islet transplantation is an alternative therapy for those T1D patients whose disease cannot be effectively managed with current methods of exogenous insulin administration. In terms of improving glycemic control and reducing life-threatening episodes of hypoglycemia, islet transplantation is highly successful, but the long-term efficacy is still too low and further refinement of the treatment is highly needed.
The research group is responsible for human islet isolation from deceased donors for clinical islet transplantation of patients suffering from severe type 1 diabetes in Norway and does this in close collaboration with the Nordic Network for Clinical Islet transplantation and the Uppsala group (led by Prof. Olle Korsgren). The islet isolation facility is located at department for Cellular Therapy at Radiumhospitalet (led by Dr. Dag Josefsen). The research group has a clear translational approach with projects ranging from clinical trials and outcome studies, experimental islets biology and cell transplant studies in small animal models, and advanced in vitro studies.