Newswise — Brooklyn, NY – For the first time in Brooklyn, a procedure has been performed implanting a patient’s own insulin-producing pancreatic cells ("islets") after the total removal of pancreas. The pancreas was removed to treat progressive, debilitating symptoms of chronic pancreatitis, an irreversible inflammation of the pancreas.

The removal of the entire pancreas cured the patient's intractable pain symptoms. The islets were implanted into the patient’s liver. The islet transplant procedure was performed to prevent or limit the development of life-long, insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus and its secondary diabetic complications that cause damage to the kidneys, eyes, nerves, and blood vessels. The patient will now enjoy a future life without pain and insulin injections.

This complex and rare procedure was performed by a surgical team at SUNY Downstate Medical Center’s University Hospital of Brooklyn, led by Rainer W. G. Gruessner, MD, FACS, FICS, chair of the Department of Surgery and Clarence and Mary Dennis Professor of Surgery at SUNY Downstate.

Wayne J. Riley, MD, MPH, MBA, MACP, president of SUNY Downstate, said, “I am pleased that a state-of-the-art surgical therapy for treating chronic pancreatitis that did not exist in our borough is now available at SUNY Downstate. This holds enormous promise for those in our community suffering from a condition that imposes severe limitations on life.”

Chronic pancreatitis is a progressive, irreversible disease frequently associated with inability to eat and chronic pain that is treated by high doses of pain killers, including narcotics, and can lead to the development of diabetes. Dr. Gruessner explains, “While removal of the pancreas removes the source of the pain, without the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas onset of very brittle diabetes mellitus is unavoidable. Autologous islet transplantation, that is, using the patient’s own islets to be transplanted into the liver, can prevent or limit the severity of diabetes and its complications in the patient.”

The surgical team at SUNY Downstate plans to offer islet allotransplantation in the future for the treatment of insulin-dependent Type 1 diabetes mellitus. Allotransplantation involves the use of pancreatic islets from a deceased donor.


SUNY Downstate Medical Center, founded in 1860, was the first medical school in the United States to bring teaching out of the lecture hall and to the patient’s bedside. A center of innovation and excellence in research and clinical service delivery, SUNY Downstate Medical Center comprises a College of Medicine, College of Nursing, College of Health Related Professions, a School of Graduate Studies, a School of Public Health, University Hospital of Brooklyn, and a multifaceted biotechnology initiative including the Downstate Biotechnology Incubator and BioBAT for early-stage and more mature companies, respectively.

SUNY Downstate ranks twelfth nationally in the number of alumni who are on the faculty of American medical schools. More physicians practicing in New York City have graduated from SUNY Downstate than from any other medical school. For more information, visit .