Pancreatic islet transplantation is a promising therapeutic approach for type 1 diabetes.However, recent advances in islet transplantation are limited by significant graft loss after transplantation. Multiple immunological and nonimmunological factors contribute to this loss. Novel therapies that could target the core reasons for the islet graft loss are desperately needed. Small interfering RNA can be used to inhibit the expression of virtually any gene with single-nucleotide specificity including genes responsible for islet damage. Applying adequate delivery of siRNA molecules to pancreatic islets prior to transplantation holds a great potential for improving the survival of islet grafts. Noninvasive imaging provides means for monitoring the survival of transplanted islets in real time. Here, we summarize the approach that has been developed to deliver siRNA to pancreatic islets in conjunction with tracking of the graft outcome by in vivo magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). We synthesize a nano-sized theranostic agent consisting of magnetic nanoparticles (MN), a reporter for MRI, labeled with Cy5.5 dye for near-infrared fluorescence (NIRF) imaging, and conjugated to siRNA molecule targeting genes that are harmful to islet grafts. Pre-labeling of islets by MN-Cy5.5-siRNA allowed us to monitor the survival of transplanted islet grafts by MRI and NIRF imaging and resulted in efficient silencing of the target genes in vivo. This novel approach combines a therapeutic effect provided by RNA interference technology with in vivo MR imaging and is expected to significantly improve the outcome of islet transplantation in patients with type 1 diabetes.
Keywords: Diabetes; Magnetic nanoparticles; Molecular imaging; Pancreatic islet; Small interfering RNA.