As part of studies to understand human pancreatic islet pathophysiology in type 1 diabetes (T1D), we discovered normal β cell mass in a 33-year-old deceased organ donor with T1D for 17 years. Further analysis revealed the donor’s diabetes resulted from a causative variant in hepatic nuclear factor 1-alpha (HNF1A), associated with Maturity-onset Diabetes of the Young-3 (MODY3) (J Clin Invest 129:246, 2019), which can be treated with sulfonylureas. Review of the donor’s redacted medical chart suggested a family history of diabetes consistent with the known autosomal dominant pattern of inheritance of MODY3. With this clinically-actionable information, we desired to inform the donor’s family. However, de-identified samples are not considered “human subject” research by Institutional Review Boards (IRB), so the family’s identity was unknown with no defined pathway for communicating these findings. Working with a Human Tissue and Organ Research Resource and an organ procurement organization, we developed a new, IRB-approved communication path between those involved in tissue collection, scientific investigation, and the donor’s family and physician. This allowed targeted genetic testing of potentially affected family members, which revealed five living relatives of the donor who carried the HNF1A variant: three adults diagnosed with diabetes before the age of 25 currently treated with insulin and two children (ages 6 months and 3 years) who did not have clinical diabetes. Since none of the identified individuals were known to have MODY3, they will likely benefit from appropriate clinical care and surveillance. This experience demonstrates the need for the scientific community to develop guidelines to address handling, reporting, and use of research findings from de-identified tissue collected for research. Defining ethical avenues for donor family-investigator communications will benefit for both organ donor families and scientific research.


D. Sparling: None. R. Haliyur: None. J. Lindner: None. L. Weber: None. A. Ramirez: None. M. Brissova: None. A.C. Powers: None.

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