Porcine Islet Xenografts: a Clinical Source of ß-Cell Grafts

Curr Diab Rep. 2017 Mar;17(3):14. doi: 10.1007/s11892-017-0846-7.


Purpose of review: Diabetes is medical and social burden affecting millions around the world. Despite intensive therapy, insulin fails to maintain adequate glucose homeostasis and often results in episodes of hypoglycemic unawareness. Islet transplantation is a propitious replacement therapy, and incremental improvements in islet isolation and immunosuppressive drugs have made this procedure a feasible option. Shortage of donors, graft loss, and toxic immunosuppressive agents are few of many hurdles against making human allogenic islet transplantation a routine procedure.

Recent findings: Xenografts-especially pig islets-offer a logical alternative source for islets. Current preclinical studies have revealed problems such as optimal islet source, zoonosis, and immune rejection. These issues are slowing clinical application. Genetically modified pigs, encapsulation devices, and new immune-suppressive regimens can confer graft protection. In addition, extrahepatic transplant sites are showing promising results. Notwithstanding few approved clinical human trials, and available data from non-human primates, recent reports indicate that porcine islets are closer to be the promising solution to cure diabetes.

Keywords: Islet xenotransplantation; Porcine islets; Type 1 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Graft Survival
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / pharmacology
  • Islets of Langerhans Transplantation / methods*
  • Swine
  • Tissue Donors
  • Transplantation, Heterologous / methods*


  • Immunosuppressive Agents