Background: Recently, we have developed a simple and reliable method to efficiently isolate large numbers of neonatal porcine islets (NPI). We and others have shown that NPI are susceptible to cytolysis by the activation of human complement in vitro. Microencapsulation of islets may be one strategy to protect NPI from this form of rejection. We examined whether microencapsulation can prevent lysis of NPI induced by human antibody and complement in vitro and also assessed their ability to reverse hyperglycemia in diabetic nude mice.
Methods: NPI were microencapsulated with purified alginate, cultured for 2 days, then tested for sensitivity to fresh human serum using an established in vitro cytotoxicity assay or transplanted into alloxan-induced diabetic nude mice.
Results: Incubation of nonencapsulated NPI for 24 hr in the presence of fresh human serum resulted in a 53% loss of cellular insulin content, a 51% reduction in recoverable DNA content, and a marked reduction of insulin secretory responsiveness when compared with controls cultured in heat-inactivated human serum. In contrast, exposure of encapsulated islets to fresh human serum had no cytotoxic effect on the islets. Transplantation of 2000 encapsulated NPI i.p. into diabetic nude mice (n=16) corrected hyperglycemia in all mice within 8 weeks. Similar results were obtained when 2000 nonencapsulated NPI were implanted under the kidney capsule (n=10); however recipients of nonencapsulated NPI placed i.p. failed to obtain euglycemia and survived for only 3 weeks posttransplantation.
Conclusion: Microencapsulation protects NPI from the cytotoxic effects of human antibody and complement and allows for long-term reversal of diabetes in nude mice.