• Question: Hello, this is Harshita. The question that I want to ask you is: if you could transplant cells from donor body to the patient body so can you use that same method to transplant body parts easily or would it be harder in your opinion?

    Asked by harshita to Katrina on 24 Mar 2020.
    • Photo: Katrina Wesencraft

      Katrina Wesencraft answered on 24 Mar 2020:


      The procedure I research is called a pancreatic islet transplant, it’s an experimental treatment for type 1 diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, the cells in your pancreas that make insulin (the islets) stop working. Only about 1-2% of the pancreas is islet cells. So we take the donor pancreas and mash it up with enzymes to get the islets out – the patient doesn’t need the other 98-99% of the pancreas to be transplanted. My research looks at how we could trap the cells in bubbles made from alginate (a polymer that’s found in seaweed). These bubbles are really tiny (200 micrometres which is about the width of a human hair!). I’ve never heard of people doing research using this technique for anything other that cells, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. But most people that need an organ transplant need the whole organ.

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