Objective: Recent advances in human islet transplantation are hampered by significant graft loss shortly after transplantation and inability to follow islet fate directly. Both issues were addressed by utilizing a dual-purpose therapy/imaging small interfering RNA (siRNA)-nanoparticle probe targeting apoptotic-related gene caspase-3. We expect that treatment with the probe would result in significantly better survival of transplanted islets, which could be monitored by in vivo magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Research design and methods: We synthesized a probe consisting of therapeutic (siRNA to human caspase-3) and imaging (magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles, MN) moieties. In vitro testing of the probe included serum starvation of the islets followed by treatment with the probe. Caspase-3 gene silencing and protein expression were determined by RT-PCR and Western blot, respectively. In vivo studies included serial MRI of NOD-SCID mice transplanted with MN-small interfering (si)Caspase-3-labeled human islets under the left kidney capsule and MN-treated islets under the right kidney capsule.
Results: Treatment with MN-siCaspase-3 probe resulted in decrease of mRNA and protein expression in serum-starved islets compared with controls. In vivo MRI showed that there were significant differences in the relative volume change between MN-siCaspase-3-treated grafts and MN-labeled grafts. Histology revealed decreased caspase-3 expression and cell apoptosis in MN-siCaspase-3-treated grafts compared with the control side.
Conclusions: Our data show the feasibility of combining siRNA therapy and in vivo monitoring of transplanted islets in mice. We observed a protective effect of MN-siCaspase-3 in treated islets both in vitro and in vivo. This study could potentially aid in increasing the success of clinical islet transplantation.