Published on January 31, 2019
Alumni Award of Excellence ’01
Islet cells play a vital role in regulating blood sugars. Should they fail, the result is Type 1 diabetes. Luckily, for the roughly one million Canadians living with this disease, Dr. Ray Rajotte has spent more than 40 years investigating a treatment.
An Alberta Order of Excellence recipient for his work, Rajotte established the group that performed Canada’s first islet cell transplant in 1989 – leading to the Edmonton Protocol. This procedure allows 100 per cent of transplant recipients to become insulin independent for varying periods of time.
Issues may remain, but Rajotte is optimistic. He and his colleagues have made many promising advances to ensure the long-term success of the Edmonton Protocol, including improved anti-rejection drugs.
Success, however, also relies on a large supply of islet cells, which the team hopes to make available through the development of genetically designed pigs that produce islets compatible with humans.
Rajotte’s commitment is clear: “An islet can perform this vast function of regulating the blood sugars that sustain life; this is miraculous and fundamental to the survival of so many people.”
— Sandy Robertson