Adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells (ASCs) release factors beneficial for islets in vitro and protect against hyperglycemia in rodent models of diabetes. Oxygen tension has been shown to induce metabolic changes and alter ASCs' release of soluble factors. The effects of hypoxia on the antidiabetic properties of ASCs have not been explored. To investigate this, we incubated human ASCs for 48 h in 21% (normoxia) or 1% O2 (hypoxia) and compared viability, cell growth, surface markers, differentiation capability, and soluble factors in the conditioned media (CM). Human islets were exposed to CM from ASCs incubated in either normoxia or hypoxia, and islet function and apoptosis after culture with or without proinflammatory cytokines were measured. To test hypoxic preconditioned ASCs' islet protective effects in vivo, ASCs were incubated for 48 h in normoxia or hypoxia before being injected into Balb/c Rag 1-/- immunodeficient mice with streptozotocin-induced insulitis. Progression of diabetes and insulin content of pancreas were measured. We found that incubation in hypoxia was well tolerated by ASCs and that levels of VEGF-A, FGF-2, and bNGF were elevated in CM from ASCs incubated in hypoxia compared to normoxia, while levels of HGF, IL-8, and CXCL1 were reduced. CM from ASCs incubated in hypoxia significantly improved human islet function and reduced apoptosis after culture, and reduced cytokine-induced apoptosis. In our mouse model, pancreas insulin content was higher in both groups receiving ASCs compared to control, but the mice receiving preconditioned ASCs had lower random and fasting blood glucose, as well as improved oral glucose tolerance compared to untreated mice. In conclusion, our in vitro results indicate that the islet protective potential of ASCs improves in hypoxia, and we give insight into factors involved in this. Finally we show that hypoxic preconditioning potentiates ASCs' antidiabetic effect in vivo.
Keywords: Adipose-derived stem cells (ASCs); Diabetes; Hypoxia; Islet transplantation.