Transplantation of encapsulated islets in a bioartificial pancreas is a promising alternative to free islet cell therapy to avoid immunosuppressive regimens. However, hypoxia, which can induce a rapid loss of islets, is a major limiting factor. The efficiency of oxygen delivery in an in vitro model of bioartificial pancreas involving hypoxia and confined conditions has never been investigated. Oxygen carriers such as perfluorocarbons and hemoglobin might improve oxygenation. To verify this hypothesis, this study aimed to identify the best candidate of perfluorodecalin (PFD) or HEMOXCell® to reduce cellular hypoxia in a bioartificial pancreas in an in vitro model of encapsulation ex vivo. The survival, hypoxia, and inflammation markers and function of rat islets seeded at 600 islet equivalents (IEQ)/cm2 and under 2% pO2 were assessed in the presence of 50 μg/mL of HEMOXCell or 10% PFD with or without adenosine. Both PFD and HEMOXCell increased the cell viability and decreased markers of hypoxia (hypoxia-inducible factor mRNA and protein). In these culture conditions, adenosine had deleterious effects, including an increase in cyclooxygenase-2 and interleukin-6, in correlation with unregulated proinsulin release. Despite the effectiveness of PFD in decreasing hypoxia, no restoration of function was observed and only HEMOXCell had the capacity to restore insulin secretion to a normal level. Thus, it appeared that the decrease in cell hypoxia as well as the intrinsic superoxide dismutase activity of HEMOXCell were both mandatory to maintain islet function under hypoxia and confinement. In the context of islet encapsulation in a bioartificial pancreas, HEMOXCell is the candidate of choice for application in vivo.
Keywords: bioartificial pancreas; hypoxia; insulin; islet; oxygen carriers.