Nursing opportunities at the MUHC. Learn more .

MUHC designated provincial centre for islet transplantation for patients with type 1 diabetes

Non-invasive procedure allows patients tolive without fear of severe hypoglycemia and even without insulin injections.

Montreal, June 30, 2022 – The McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) is proud to announce its official designation, by the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MSSS), as the provincial centre for islet transplantation for patients with type 1 diabetes. The MUHC has been the leader in the development of this unique medical expertise in Quebec, thanks to the dedicated work of research and clinical teams.

Type 1 diabetes results from the inability of the pancreas to produce enough insulin, which can lead to a significant disruption of blood sugar regulation in the body. The disease requires lifelong monitoring of blood sugar and daily insulin injections to prevent serious long-term complications, such as blindness, stroke, kidney failure and cardiovascular disease. The islet cell transplant is a non-invasive procedure that corrects this condition in severely ill patients. An estimated 300,000 Canadians live with type 1 diabetes.

In 2015, the MUHC conducted the first islet cell transplant in Quebec, a procedure in which islets of Langerhans – the clusters of pancreatic cells that produce insulin – are isolated from a donor’s pancreas and infused into a patient’s liver through a small catheter in the abdomen. After only a few weeks, the patient is able to produce insulin and eventually, becomes insulin independent.

Dr. Steven Paraskevas, director of the MUHC Pancreas and Islet Transplantation Program
Dr. Steven Paraskevas, director of the MUHC Pancreas and Islet Transplantation Program, located at McGill University.

Dr. Steven Paraskevas, director of the MUHC Pancreas and Islet Transplantation Program, heads the MUHC Human Islet Transplantation Laboratory, where islets are isolated and evaluated.

“The growth and development of this program has been a success story of collaboration between many researchers and medical professionals, supported by the vision and leadership of the MUHC,” says Dr. Paraskevas. “We would also like to acknowledge the precious contribution of the MUHC Foundation and the Montreal General Hospital Foundation, whose donations enabled us to develop this program and be officially designated as the hospital to offer this procedure for Quebec.”

An expansion of care

Since the first procedure, the MUHC team led by Dr. Paraskevas continued to develop its medical expertise at the MUHC Human Islet Transplant Laboratory, located at McGill University. Ten transplants have been performed and their effects have been carefully studied. The new designation will allow the MUHC to improve access to this procedure and to be able to treat many more individuals.

“We are so proud that after years of work and persistence, the MUHC will be able to continue providing this life-altering therapy,” says Dr. Liane Feldman, MUHC Surgeon-in-chief. “This procedure makes a significant difference in the lives of diabetic patients. Our goal is to grow the program so that more Quebecers can benefit in the years to come.”

Support for the development of this clinical program was provided by the McGill University Health Centre Foundation, the Montreal General Hospital Foundation, the Research Institute of the MUHC, Transplant Quebec, the Canada Foundation for Innovation and McGill University.