Intraportal islet transplantation: the impact of the liver microenvironment

Transpl Int. 2017 Mar;30(3):227-238. doi: 10.1111/tri.12919.


The portal vein remains the preferred site for pancreatic islet transplantation due to its easy access and low morbidity. However, despite great progress in isolation and transplantation protocols over the past few years, it is still associated with the early loss of some 50-70% of transplanted islets. The complex liver microenvironment itself presumably plays an important role in this loss. The present review focuses on the specifics of the liver microenvironment, notably the localized hepatic ischemia/reperfusion injury following transplantation, the low oxygenation of the portal vein, the instant blood-mediated inflammatory reaction, the endogenous liver immune system, and the gut-liver axis, and how they can each have an impact on the transplanted islets. It identifies the potential, or already applied, clinical interventions for improving intraportal islet survival, and pinpoints those promising areas still lacking preclinical research. Future interventions on clinical intraportal islet transplantation need to take into account the global context of the liver microenvironment, with multi-point interventions being most likely to improve early islet survival and engraftment.

Keywords: gut-liver axis; instant blood-mediated inflammatory reaction; ischemia/reperfusion; islet transplantation; liver microenvironment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cellular Microenvironment
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome
  • Graft Survival
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / etiology
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Islets of Langerhans Transplantation / adverse effects
  • Islets of Langerhans Transplantation / methods*
  • Liver / immunology
  • Liver / injuries
  • Liver / surgery
  • Portal Vein
  • Reperfusion Injury / etiology
  • Reperfusion Injury / pathology