The use of pancreas biopsy scoring provides reliable porcine islet yields while encapsulation permits the determination of microbiological safety

Cell Transplant. 2005;14(7):427-39. doi: 10.3727/000000005783982846.


For clinical xenogenic islet transplantation to be successful, several requirements must be met. Among them is a sizeable and reliable source of fully functional and microbiologically safe islets. The inherent variability among porcine pancreases, with respect to islet yield, prompted us to develop a Biopsy Score technique to determine the suitability of each pancreas for islet isolation processing. The Biopsy Score consists of an assessment of five variables: warm ischemia time, pancreas color, fat content, islet size, and islet demarcation, each of which is assigned a value of -1 or +1, depending on whether or not the established criteria is met. For determination of islet size and demarcation, fresh biopsies of porcine pancreases are stained with dithizone (DTZ) solution and examined under a dissecting microscope. Based on the scoring of such biopsies in pancreases from 26-56-month-old sows, we report here that the presence of large (>100 microm diameter), well-demarcated islets in the pancreas biopsy is a reliable predictor of isolation success. Encapsulation of the isolated porcine islets within the inner layer of a 1.5% agarose and an outer layer of 5.0% agarose macrobead, containing 500 equivalent islet number (EIN), provides for extended in vitro functional viability (>6 months of insulin production in response to glucose), as well as for comprehensive microbiological testing and at least partial isolation of the xenogeneic islets from the host immune system. All microbiological testing to date has been negative, except for the presence of porcine endogenous retrovirus (PERV). Taken together, we believe that the Biopsy Score enhancement of our islet isolation technique and our agarose-agarose macroencapsulation methodology bring us significantly closer to realizing clinical porcine islet xenotransplantation for the treatment of insulin-dependent diabetic patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Capsules
  • Islets of Langerhans / chemistry
  • Islets of Langerhans / cytology*
  • Islets of Langerhans / microbiology*
  • Islets of Langerhans Transplantation / methods
  • Islets of Langerhans Transplantation / standards*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Pancreas / chemistry
  • Pancreas / cytology*
  • Pancreas / pathology
  • Safety
  • Swine
  • Tissue Culture Techniques / methods*
  • Tissue Survival


  • Capsules