Microencapsulation of islets of Langerhans has been proposed as a means of preventing their immune destruction following transplantation. Microcapsules of diameters <350 microm made with an electrostatic pulse system present many advantages relative to standard microcapsules (700-1500 microm), including smaller total implant volume, better insulin kinetics, better cell oxygenation, and accessibility to new implantation sites. To evaluate their biocompatibility, 200, 1000, 1120, 1340, or 3000 of these smaller microcapsules (<350 microm) or 20 standard microcapsules (1247+/-120 microm) were implanted into rat epididymal fat pads, retrieved after 2 weeks, and evaluated histologically. The average pericapsular reaction increased with the number of small microcapsules implanted (p<0.05; 3000 vs. 200, 3000 vs. 1000, and 1000 vs. 200 microcapsules). At equal volume and alginate content, standard microcapsules caused a more intense fibrosis reaction than smaller microcapsules (p<0.05). In addition, 20 standard microcapsules elicited a stronger pericapsular reaction than 200 and 1000 smaller microcapsules (p<0.05) although the latter represented a 3.4-fold larger total implant surface exposed. We conclude that microcapsules of diameters <350 microm made with an electrostatic pulse system are more biocompatible than standard microcapsules.
Copyright 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.