Background: Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), also known as multipotent progenitor cells, release several factors that support cell survival and enhance wound healing. We hypothesized that MSC-secreted molecules would induce a trophic effect in pancreatic islet culture conditions.
Methods: Pancreatic islets were co-cultured with MSCs, and ADP/ATP ratios, glucose stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS), and DNA fragmentation were evaluated to measure islet quality and viability in vitro. The induction of signal molecules related to the control of survival, function, and angiogenesis was also analyzed. Cell quality assays, DNA fragmentation assays, and islet transplantation into streptozotocin-induced diabetic mice were performed using MSC-conditioned medium (CM)-cultured islets. Furthermore, we identified soluble molecules within MSC-CM.
Results: Islets co-cultured with MSCs demonstrated lower ADP/ATP ratios, and higher GSIS indexes and viability. Furthermore, co-cultured islets revealed higher levels of anti-apoptotic signal molecules (X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis protein, Bcl-xL, Bcl-2, and heat shock protein-32) and demonstrated increased vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 and Tie-2 mRNA expression and increased levels of phosphorylated Tie-2 and focal adhesion kinase protein. Islets cultured in MSC-CM demonstrated lower ADP/ATP ratios, less apoptosis, and a higher GSIS indexes. Diabetic mice that received islet transplants (200 islet equivalent) cultured in MSC-CM for 48 hr demonstrated significantly lower blood glucose levels and enhanced blood vessel formation. In addition, interleukin-6, interleukin-8, vascular endothelial growth factor-A, hepatocyte growth factor, and transforming growth factor-beta were detected at significant levels in MSC-CM.
Conclusions: These results suggest that the trophic factors secreted by human MSCs enhance islet survival and function after transplantation.