Islet cell expert to expand diabetes research and treatment


November 2002


WORCESTER, Mass.— Cristiana Rastellini, MD, a widely respected expert in islet cell transplantation, has been appointed director of cellular transplantation and director of the islet isolation laboratory at UMass Memorial Medical Center. She has also been appointed associate professor of surgery and immunology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. 


“Dr. Rastellini’s expertise in cellular transplantation will make UMass Memorial a leader in this novel approach to treating devastating diseases such as diabetes,” said Giacomo Basadonna, director of the division of transplantation for the 761-bed teaching hospital. “Her work will certainly expand the range of therapies offered through our current program of islet transplantation for diabetic patients throughout the region.”


In June, a team of UMMS faculty and staff led by Aldo A. Rossini, MD, the William and Doris Krupp Professor of Medicine and chief of the Division of Diabetes, successfully transplanted donor pancreatic cell clusters, called islets, into two Type 1 diabetics to reduce or eliminate their dependence on insulin. This experimental treatment makes UMMS one of only 18 centers worldwide participating in a $5 million clinical trial of the Edmonton Protocol, begun by the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada and hailed as a treatment breakthrough in June 2000.


Rastellini was the director of cell transplantation at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she was also the director of surgical research.  She received her medical degree from the University of Rome in 1992 and retains her academic appointments there, having been named research supervisor and professor of surgery and immunology.  She was a research fellow in cell transplant at the renowned T.E. Starzl Transplantation Institute at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, where she later became an instructor of surgery.  She joined UIC in 1998 as assistant professor of surgery and immunology and director of the institution’s cell transplant program within the department.


Rastellini’s other research and clinical interests include innovative immunosuppressive approaches in transplantation, tolerance-induction strategies and the prevention of surgically induced diabetes in patients who have had part or all of their pancreases removed.


UMass Memorial Health Care is central Massachusetts’ largest not-for-profit health care delivery system, covering the complete health care continuum with teaching hospitals, affiliated community hospitals, freestanding primary care practices, ambulatory outpatient clinics, long-term care facilities, home health agencies, hospice programs, a rehabilitation group and mental health services.  UMass Memorial is the clinical partner of the University of Massachusetts Medical School.


The University of Massachusetts Medical School is one of the fastest growing medical schools in the country, attracting more than $134 million in research funding annually.  A perennial top ten finisher in the annual US News & World Report ranking of primary care medical schools, UMMS comprises a medical school, graduate school of nursing, graduate school of biomedical sciences and an active research enterprise, and is a leader in health sciences education, research and public service.




Alison Duffy, 508-856-2000