Background aims: Co-transplantation of islets with mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) has been shown to improve graft outcome in mice, which has been partially attributed to the effects of MSCs on revascularization and preservation of islet morphology. Microencapsulation of islets provides an isolated-graft model of islet transplantation that is non-vascularized and prevents islet aggregation to preserve islet morphology. The aim of this study was to investigate whether MSCs could improve graft outcome in a microencapsulated/isolated-graft model of islet transplantation.
Methods: Mouse islets and kidney MSCs were co-encapsulated in alginate, and their function was assessed in vitro. A minimal mass of 350 syngeneic islets encapsulated alone or co-encapsulated with MSCs (islet+MSC) were transplanted intraperitoneally into diabetic mice, and blood glucose concentrations were monitored. Capsules were recovered 6 weeks after transplantation, and islet function was assessed.
Results: Islets co-encapsulated with MSCs in vitro had increased glucose-stimulated insulin secretion and content. The average blood glucose concentration of transplanted mice was significantly lower by 3 weeks in the islet+MSC group. By week 6, 71% of the co-encapsulated group were cured compared with 16% of the islet-alone group. Capsules recovered at 6 weeks had greater glucose-stimulated insulin secretion and insulin content in the islet+MSC group.
Conclusions: MSCs improved the efficacy of microencapsulated islet transplantation. Using an isolated-graft model, we were able to eliminate the impact of MSC-mediated enhancement of revascularization and preservation of islet morphology and demonstrate that the improvement in insulin secretion and content is sustained in vivo and can significantly improve graft outcome.
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