Long-term cryopreservation of reaggregated pancreatic islets resulting in successful transplantation in rats

Cryobiology. 2017 Jun:76:41-50. doi: 10.1016/j.cryobiol.2017.04.010. Epub 2017 May 5.


Preservation of pancreatic islets for long-term storage of islets used for transplantation or research has long been a goal. Unfortunately, few studies on long-term islet cryopreservation (1 month and longer) have reported positive outcomes in terms of islet yield, survival and function. In general, single cells have been shown to tolerate the cryopreservation procedure better than tissues/multicellular structures like islets. Thus, we optimized a method to cryopreserve single islet cells and, after thawing, reaggregated them into islet spheroids. Cryopreserved (CP) single human islet cells formed spheroids efficiently within 3-5 days after thawing. Approximately 79% of islet cells were recovered following the single-cell cryopreservation protocol. Viability after long-term cryopreservation (4 weeks or more) was significantly higher in the CP islet cell spheroids (97.4 ± 0.4%) compared to CP native islets (14.6 ± 0.4%). Moreover, CP islet cell spheroids had excellent viability even after weeks in culture (88.5 ± 1.6%). Metabolic activity was 4-5 times higher in CP islet cell spheroids than CP native islets at 24 and 48 h after thawing. Diabetic rats transplanted with CP islet cell spheroids were normoglycemic for 10 months, identical to diabetic rats transplanted with fresh islets. However, the animals receiving fresh islets required a higher volume of transplanted tissue to achieve normoglycemia compared to those transplanted with CP islet cell spheroids. By cryopreserving single cells instead of intact islets, we achieved highly viable and functional islets after thawing that required lower tissue volumes to reverse diabetes in rats.

Keywords: Cryoprotective agents; Histology; Human; Insulin; Islets; Rat; Viability.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cryopreservation / methods*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Islets of Langerhans Transplantation*
  • Islets of Langerhans*
  • Organ Preservation / methods*
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley