Aims/hypothesis: Attempts to use an alternative source of islets to restore glucose homeostasis in diabetic patients require preclinical islet xenotransplantation models to be tested. These models raise questions about metabolic compatibility between species and the most appropriate metabolic parameters to be used to monitor graft function. The present study investigated and compared relevant gluco-metabolic parameters in pigs, monkeys and the pig-to-monkey islet transplantation model to gain insight into the potential clinical outcome of pig-to-human islet transplantation.
Methods: Basal and IVGTT-stimulated blood glucose, C-peptide, insulin and glucagon levels were assessed in non-diabetic pigs and monkeys. The same parameters were used to evaluate the performance of porcine islet xenografts in diabetic monkeys.
Results: Non-diabetic cynomolgus monkeys showed lower levels of fasting and stimulated blood glucose but higher levels of C-peptide and insulin than non-diabetic pigs. The reported levels in humans lie between those of monkeys and pigs, and differences in metabolic parameters between pigs and humans appear to be smaller than those between pigs and cynomolgus monkeys. The transplantation data indicated that the degree of graft function (evaluated by the measurement of C-peptide levels) necessary to normalise blood glucose in the recipient was determined by the recipient levels rather than by the donor levels.
Conclusions/interpretation: The differences between donor and recipient species may affect the transplantation outcome and need to be considered when assessing graft function in xenotransplantation models. Given the differences between monkeys and humans as potential recipients of pig islets, it should be easier to reach glucose homeostasis in pig-to-human than in pig-to-non-human primate islet xenotransplantation.