Milestones & Successes

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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.


Bernhard Hering, M.D., a world leader in islet transplant therapy and xenotransplantation (transplants from one species to another), joined the University of Minnesota faculty


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.


The Schulze Diabetes Institute transplants final patient as part of Phase III clinical trial of human islet transplants for people with difficult-to-manage type 1 diabetes.


The University of Minnesota transplants human islets into its 100th individual with type 1 diabetes.

Christopher Burlak, Ph.D., joins the Schulze Diabetes Institute with a focus on understanding xenotransplant immunology, and the generation of genetically modified donor pigs.


The University of Minnesota completes its 600th total pancreatectomy and islet auto-transplant for the treatment of chronic pancreatitis


Hering is lead author on a paper documenting the clinical outcomes of a Phase III clinical trial showing that pancreatic islet cell transplantation can prevent episodes of severe hypoglycemia in people who have type 1 diabetes and restore blood sugar awareness and control.

Sabarinathan Ramachandran, Ph.D., joins the Schulze Diabetes Institute to develop approaches aimed at establishing immune tolerance to allo- and xeno-islet transplants.


With University support the Schulze Diabetes Institute moves to newly renovated state-of-the art laboratories in Moos Tower.