Effectiveness of a Web-Based Automated Cell Distribution System
In recent years, industries have turned to the field of operations research to help improve the efficiency of production and distribution processes. Largely absent is the application of this methodology to biological materials, such as the complex and costly procedure of human pancreas procurement and islet isolation. Pancreatic islets are used for basic science research and in a promising form of cell replacement therapy for a subset of patients afflicted with severe type 1 diabetes mellitus. Having an accurate and reliable system for cell distribution is therefore crucial. The Islet Cell Resource Center Consortium was formed in 2001 as the first and largest cooperative group of islet production and distribution facilities in the world. We previously reported on the development of a Matching Algorithm for Islet Distribution (MAID), an automated web-based tool used to optimize the distribution of human pancreatic islets by matching investigator requests to islet characteristics. This article presents an assessment of that algorithm and compares it to the manual distribution process used prior to MAID. A comparison was done using an investigator's ratio of the number of islets received divided by the number requested pre- and post-MAID. Although the supply of islets increased between the pre- versus post-MAID period, the median received-to-requested ratio remained around 60% due to an increase in demand post-MAID. A significantly smaller variation in the received-to-requested ratio was achieved in the post- versus pre-MAID period. In particular, the undesirable outcome of providing users with more islets than requested, ranging up to four times their request, was greatly reduced through the algorithm. In conclusion, this analysis demonstrates, for the first time, the effectiveness of using an automated web-based cell distribution system to facilitate efficient and consistent delivery of human pancreatic islets by enhancing the islet matching process.
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