Islet transplantation offers a solution for pets suffering from diabetes. Islets contain the insulin producing cells from the pancreas, among other important cells, that regulate the level of glucose in the blood. When the islets are destroyed, a patient becomes diabetic and requires insulin injections. With more than 30 years of research, islets have been isolated from the pancreas of qualified human donors and transplanted into diabetic recipients, returning blood glucose levels to normal within days and maintaining these levels with 40-80 percent success for years. As this therapy was developed for humans, much of the pre-clinical testing was conducted in dogs, as dogs with naturally-occurring diabetes are quite similar to human type 1 diabetics. In fact, in over 250 peer-reviewed research publications 1000s of dogs have been the recipients of islet transplants. At Likarda, we asked the question: if so many dogs have received islet transplants as part of research studies, why hasn’t this become an option for diabetic dogs?
Through years of development and working with our various partners, we are in the process of bringing islet transplants to dogs. Islets are isolated from the pancreas of qualified canine donors through our partner, Cheri’s Hope, a pet organ donation network. These islets are then microencapsulated with a protective hydrogel to prevent the immune system from destroying the transplant. The microencapsulated islets are then transplanted via injection into the belly of a diabetic dog, removing the need for exogenous insulin. We expect our pilot program to become available in early 2017.