High vascular density and oxygenation of pancreatic islets transplanted in clusters into striated muscle

Cell Transplant. 2011;20(5):783-8. doi: 10.3727/096368910X536527. Epub 2010 Nov 5.


Pancreatic islet transplantation is presently almost exclusively performed using the intraportal route for transplantation into the liver. However, islets at this site are poorly revascularized and, when also considering the poor long-term results of clinical islet transplantation, there has in recent years emerged an increased interest to evaluate alternative sites for islet transplantation. Striated muscle is easily accessible and has for decades been used for autotransplantation of parathyroid glands. Moreover, it is almost the only tissue in the adult where physiological angiogenesis occurs. The present study tested the hypothesis that striated muscle would provide good conditions for revascularization and oxygenation of transplanted islets. Because we previously have observed similar revascularization of islets implanted to the renal subcapsular site and intraportally into the liver, islets grafted to the kidney were for simplicity besides native islets used for comparison. Islets grafted into muscle were found to have three times more blood vessels than corresponding islets at the renal subcapsular site at 2 month follow-up, but still less vascular numbers than native islets. The oxygen tension in 2-month-old intramuscular islet grafts was sixfold higher than in corresponding renal subcapsular grafts, and 70% of that in native islets. However, the oxygenation of surrounding muscle was only 50% of that in renal cortex, and connective tissue constituted a larger proportion of the intramuscular than the renal subcapsular grafts, suggesting exaggerated early islet cell death at the former site. We conclude that the intramuscular site provides excellent conditions for vascular engraftment, but that interventions to improve early islet survival likely are needed before clinical application. Such could include bioengineered matrices that not only spatially disperse the islet, but also could provide local supply of oxygen carriers, growth and survival factors, strategies that are much more easily applied at the intramuscular than the intrahepatic site.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Injections, Intramuscular
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Islets of Langerhans / cytology
  • Islets of Langerhans Transplantation*
  • Male
  • Muscle, Striated / blood supply
  • Muscle, Striated / cytology*
  • Muscle, Striated / metabolism
  • Neovascularization, Physiologic
  • Oxygen / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Insulin
  • Oxygen