Donate Your Pancreas to Science…Later

If you have Type 1 diabetes, you might think your pancreas is worthless, but researchers don’t. They hope you will think of donating your pancreas to research efforts when you shuffle off this mortal coil.

Researchers want to study the human pancreas to learn more about Type 1, but to do so they need organ donors. The Network for Pancreatic Organ Donors with Diabetes (nPOD) was founded to supply researchers with pancreases to study, says Dr. Alberto Pugliese, the program’s co-executive director. Since its founding, nPOD has collected tissues from over 100 donors with diabetes. As a result, those specimens have been examined by about 130 research projects across the globe.

Diabetes researchers often don’t get enough access to human pancreases, and must focus research instead on mouse pancreases. Unfortunately, this can lead to mouse “cures” that don’t work on humans. The pancreas is not normally biopsied, Pugliese explains, and imaging techniques are very limited. While a cure is the ultimate goal, Dr. Pugliese said in an email interview that if “patients with diabetes donate their pancreases to diabetes-focuses research, we could…understand the disease’s cause and discover new therapeutic targets.”

One initiative to come out of the program is the University of Miami nPOD-Transplant study, in which pancreases from diabetic patients who’ve received a transplant are recovered, post-mortem, to be compared with the donor’s native organ.

“It is…important to study the transplanted pancreas because in some cases the autoimmune process that caused diabetes may come back against the transplanted pancreas,” Dr. Pugliese said.

To visit nPOD’s website and learn more about the program, click here. If you or someone you know would like to participate in the nPOD program, you can find the application here.

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Travis served as a staff writer for Insulin Nation and Type 2 Nation in 2015. Previously, he was a staff writer for Insight, a high school newspaper, as well as a copywriter for The Emersonian, Emerson's yearbook.

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