Dr. Balamurugan Appakalai, PhD, an international pioneer in islet cell isolation and transplantation for the treatment of diabetes, has been appointed as Associate professor of Surgery and the Director of Islet Cell Laboratory at the University of Louisville Department of Surgery in June 2014. Dr. Bala joins the UofL to establish a clinical islet transplant program to treat patients with painful chronic pancreatitis (islet auto-transplantation) and severe type-1 diabetes (islet allo-transplantation). His islet biology research initiatives will focus on improving functional capacity of isolated islets and type-II diabetes research. Dr. Bala possesses one of the largest experiences in processing pancreases for clinical islet cell auto- allo- and xeno-transplantation in the world. As an “isletologist” for the past 20 years, he has processed over 800 human pancreases, and 600 pig pancreases. His research career has focused on advancing pancreatic islet cell isolation and transplantation for the treatment of type-I diabetes and surgery-induced diabetes. As the Director of the Islet Processing Core at the Schulze Diabetes Institute of the University of Minnesota, he and his team performed (2007-2014) more than 500 human islet isolations and 500 porcine islet isolations. Specifically, since 2007, he has involved in processing and transplanting 380 clinical islet auto-transplant products to chronic pancreatitis patients (after pancreatectomy) and 40 islet allo-transplantations of islets from cadaveric donors to type-1 diabetic patients. Dr. Bala’ research has focused on ways to improve the islet mass by optimizing various tissue dissociation enzymes and the survival of islets during islet manufacturing (this includes optimizing pancreas procurement, preservation, pancreas digestion, islet purification, islet culture and islet isolation). As the Associate Director of Islet Transplant Program at the Schulze Diabetes Institute at the University of Minnesota, he actively participated and established advanced islet manufacturing protocols and performed many clinical allo-transplantations to type-I diabetic patients for the “Clinical Islet Transplantation Consortium” Phase-III multicenter clinical trial (sponsored by NIH). His career has revolved around manufacturing and optimizing pancreatic islet cell products for clinical transplantation studies at the Universities of Kyoto, Pittsburgh, Colorado, and Minnesota. Dr. Bala directed clinical islet cGMP facility and performed several clinical islet allo-transplantations at the Barbara Davis Diabetes Center of the University of Colorado in Denver. Dr. Bala also previously served on the faculty at the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute of the University of Pittsburgh from 2001-2006, where he was an Assistant Professor of Surgery, holding leadership positions as Associate Director of the Islet Transplant Program and the Co-Director of Islet Processing Core. He processed over 250 human pancreases for various diabetes research projects. He has published 100 research articles including book chapters and serves on the editorial review boards of several journals. He has been invited nationally and internationally to give numerous presentations on his research studies on islet cell transplantation.
Dr. Bala’ research has focused on ways to improve the islet mass by optimizing various tissue dissociation enzymes and the survival of islets during islet manufacturing (this includes optimizing pancreas procurement, preservation, pancreas digestion, islet purification, islet culture and islet isolation).