“This is a life-changing experience for those who are eligible, and yes, they say that it’s a ‘functional cure‘ to them.” - Jose Oberholzer, MD, Associate Professor of Surgery

Mr. Bruno Pasquinelli, Janette Leal (a recipient of Islet Cell Transplant surgery, Dr. Jose Oberholzer and Dr. Enrico Benedetti

Mr. Bruno Pasquinelli, Janette Leal (a recipient of Islet Cell Transplant surgery, Dr. Jose Oberholzer and Dr. Enrico Benedetti

Why Type 1 Diabetic Janette Leal No Longer Needs Insulin

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

A Revolutionary Procedure

While looking for place to volunteer, Janette came across the work being done by Dr. Jose Oberholzer. She first dismissed the possibility of an transplant due to the need for immunosuppression but after meeting with Dr. Oberholzer, Janette volunteered for an islet transplant, a breakthrough procedure designed to prevent many of the know devastating effects of long-term Type 1 diabetes. Mr. Bruno Pasquinelli (pictured above with Janette) sponsored Janette by covering the cost of her islet cell transplantation cost with a donation.

Her Life Today

Janette had her transplant in 2011 and continues to be symptom-free of diabetes and she hadn't required and insulin shot since. The young doctor is now finishing her intern year of medical residency.  "I cannot imagine how I would have survived the intense schedule and work load had I been having low blood sugars. I am thankful and words are not enough. I can only hope that others, seeing the generosity of Mr. Pasquinelli, realize the magnitude of this procedure and support their efforts to cure diabetes. "I hope to pay forward one day"

How is Works

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 brittle 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.

The need for a functional cure is critical and the most promising treatment for controlling diabetes is to replace the destroyed insulin-producing cells with functional islet cells that are immune to destruction by the body’s defense system.

Dr. Jose Oberholzer, MD, is an Associate Professor of Surgery, Endocrinology and Diabetes, and Bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC)

Dr. Jose Oberholzer, MD, is an Associate Professor of Surgery, Endocrinology and Diabetes, and Bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC)

About Dr. Jose Oberholzer

Dr. Jose Oberholzer, MD, is an Associate Professor of Surgery, Endocrinology and Diabetes, and Bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), the Director of the Islet and Pancreas Transplant Program and the Chief of the Division of Transplantation. He has extensive experience in clinical and experimental islet transplantation, abdominal organ transplantation, as well as advanced hepatobiliary and pancreatic surgery.  He trained at the University of Geneva (Switzerland), as well as at the University of Alberta in Edmonton (Canada), where he completed a fellowship in hepatobiliary and pancreatic surgery and transplantation. Dr. Oberholzer was the Head of the Islet Transplant Program at the University of Geneva and the GRAGIL islet consortium from 1998 to 2002, completing a significant number of islet transplants. He has been heading UIC's Islet Transplant Program since 2003 and is the Chief of the Transplant Division at UIC since Summer 2007.  UIC has a comprehensive multi-organ transplant program with emphasis on transplantation for diabetes, as well as on robotic surgery in living donors for kidney, liver, pancreas and small bowel.