Milestones & Successes

stone path

The University of Minnesota has been a leader in transplant medicine since the 1960s, pioneering and refining techniques, as well as training many of the transplant surgeons around the world today.

Our work in pancreas and islet cell transplantation, in particular, has a long history of success.


The University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic establish organ transplantation programs. Surgeons from both facilities perform kidney transplants.


University of Minnesota surgeons Richard C. Lillehei, M.D. and William D. Kelly, M.D. perform the world’s first pancreas transplant.


Drs. Lillehei and Kelly perform the world’s first simultaneous pancreas-kidney transplant.


University of Minnesota surgeons David Sutherland, M.D., Ph.D. and John Najarian, M.D. perform the first allo-islet cell transplant (from a deceased donor to a living recipient) to treat type 1 diabetes.


Drs. Sutherland and Najarian perform the world’s first auto-islet transplant (using the patient’s own cells) on a person with pancreatitis.


Dr. Sutherland performs the world’s first partial pancreas transplant from a living related donor.


The FDA approves the immunosuppressant drug cyclosporine. Cyclosporine transforms organ transplantation from experimental to routine.


A University of Minnesota/Mayo Clinic collaborative led by Dr. Sutherland and James D. Perkins, M.D. results in the development of a technique for simultaneous liver/pancreas procurement.


Dr. Sutherland performs the first unrelated living-donor pancreas transplant. That same year, Sutherland and Paul Gores, M.D. conduct one of the world’s first clinical islet transplant trials using single donors of simultaneous kidney transplants.


Dr. Sutherland and Rainer Gruessner, M.D. perform the first combined segmental pancreas and kidney transplant from a living donor.


Dr. Gruessner, Dr. Sutherland and Raja Kandaswamy, M.D. perform the first simultaneous laparoscopic living donor pancreas-kidney transplant.


The Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation provides a grant to put the Schulze Diabetes Institute on an accelerated path to finding a cure for type 1 diabetes.


Recognizing our success, the National Institutes of Health renewed funding for us to continue our human islet clinical trials. Of the 7 sites in the United States chosen to conduct these trials, no other site has enrolled more patients than the University of Minnesota.

Today, nearly 90% of islet transplant recipients become insulin independent post-transplant, and more than 50% remain so after 5 years.