Coating human pancreatic islets with CD4(+)CD25(high)CD127(-) regulatory T cells as a novel approach for the local immunoprotection

Ann Surg. 2011 Sep;254(3):512-8; discussion 518-9. doi: 10.1097/SLA.0b013e31822c9ca7.


Objectives: To develop a novel approach for local immunoprotection using CD4(+)CD25(high)CD127(-) T regulatory cells (Tregs) attached to the surface of the islets before transplantation.

Background: Tregs expanded ex vivo can control allo and autoreactivity, therefore, Treg-based therapy may offer more effective protection for transplanted islets from immunologic attack than currently used immunosuppression. Local application of Tregs can make such therapy more clinically feasible and efficient.

Methods: Human islets were isolated and coated with allogeneic ex vivo expanded Tregs using biotin-poly(ethylene glycol)-N-hydroxysuccinimide ester (biotin-PEG-NHS) and streptavidin as binding molecules.

Results: Coating pancreatic islets with Tregs did not affect islet viability (>90% fluorescein diacetate/propidium iodide) or the insulin secretion profile in dynamic islet perifusion assays. After in vitro incubation with allogeneic T effector cells, Treg-coated islets revealed preserved function with higher insulin secretion compared with controls-native islets, coated islets with T effector cells or when Tregs were added to the culture, but not attached to islets (P < 0.05). In addition, the Enzyme-linked immunosorbent spot (ELISPOT) assay revealed suppression of interferon (IFN)-γ secretion, when T effector cells were challenged with Treg-coated islets comparing to controls (99 ± 7 vs 151 ± 8 dots, respectively; P < 0.01).

Conclusions: We demonstrated, for the first time, the ability to bind immune regulatory cells to target cells with preservation of their viability and function and protective activity against immune attack. If successfully tested in an animal model, local delivery of immunoprotective Tregs on the surface of transplanted pancreatic islets may be an alternative or improvement to the currently used immunosuppression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunospot Assay
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppression Therapy* / methods
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Interferon-gamma / drug effects
  • Interferon-gamma / immunology*
  • Islets of Langerhans / immunology*
  • Islets of Langerhans Transplantation / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology*
  • Transplantation Tolerance* / immunology


  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Interferon-gamma