Professor Toby Coates and his work on Islet Transplantation

28 Jul 2022

Professor Toby Coates is a leading type 1 diabetes (T1D) researcher and transplantation specialist who has been supported by JDRF for several years. He is continuing to make exciting progress thanks to support from fundraisers and donors.

His research focuses on islet transplantation, a process to replace islets (which contain insulin producing cells) that have been damaged as a result of T1D. 

This enables people living with T1D to produce their own insulin naturally, which can significantly reduce the day-to-day challenges of managing blood sugar levels. However, the treatment has historically been a promising but short-lived solution. Prof. Toby Coates and Prof. John Greenwood are currently investigating new approaches to islet transplantation that are designed to have longer lasting results with an easier and less invasive process.

New approach to islet transplantation

Traditionally, the liver has been the most common site of islet transplantation, but this organ is extremely difficult to access, requiring surgery under general anaesthesia, and it is impossible to monitor the transplanted cells.

Prof. Coates wants to address these challenges with a new method of transplanting islet cells just beneath the skin. This method involves injecting donor islet cells into a specialised skin graft, which can help support long-term survival of cells.

This could be a game changer for people with T1D if proven successful.

This time last year, Prof. Coates was preparing to trial this method for the first time in humans. 

Thanks to JDRF support and funding, it has since progressed to this stage and the first participant has now successfully undergone islet transplantation via this method.

The participant, who has lived with T1D for almost five decades, has been producing his own insulin for several months now and is continuing monitoring with Prof. Coates. 

“I want to use transplants to replace the need for insulin – by getting people with T1D to produce their own insulin naturally in the body”

By supporting the One Walk Step Challenge, you are raising funds for promising research areas such as Profs. Coates and Greenwood’s islet transplantation clinical trial and helping researchers find the next breakthrough treatments. 

As Prof. Coates says, “by supporting our research, you are helping us help you”.