Bioengineered human pseudoislets form efficiently from donated tissue, compare favourably with native islets in vitro and restore normoglycaemia in mice

Diabetologia. 2018 Sep;61(9):2016-2029. doi: 10.1007/s00125-018-4672-5. Epub 2018 Jul 3.


Aims/hypothesis: Islet transplantation is a treatment option that can help individuals with type 1 diabetes become insulin independent, but inefficient oxygen and nutrient delivery can hamper islet survival and engraftment due to the size of the islets and loss of the native microvasculature. We hypothesised that size-controlled pseudoislets engineered via centrifugal-forced-aggregation (CFA-PI) in a platform we previously developed would compare favourably with native islets, even after taking into account cell loss during the process.

Methods: Human islets were dissociated and reaggregated into uniform, size-controlled CFA-PI in our microwell system. Their performance was assessed in vitro and in vivo over a range of sizes, and compared with that of unmodified native islets, as well as islet cell clusters formed by a conventional spontaneous aggregation approach (in which dissociated islet cells are cultured on ultra-low-attachment plates). In vitro studies included assays for membrane integrity, apoptosis, glucose-stimulated insulin secretion assay and total DNA content. In vivo efficacy was determined by transplantation under the kidney capsule of streptozotocin-treated Rag1-/- mice, with non-fasting blood glucose monitoring three times per week and IPGTT at day 60 for glucose response. A recovery nephrectomy, removing the graft, was conducted to confirm efficacy after completing the IPGTT. Architecture and composition were analysed by histological assessment via insulin, glucagon, pancreatic polypeptide, somatostatin, CD31 and von Willebrand factor staining.

Results: CFA-PI exhibit markedly increased uniformity over native islets, as well as substantially improved glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (8.8-fold to 11.1-fold, even after taking cell loss into account) and hypoxia tolerance. In vivo, CFA-PI function similarly to (and potentially better than) native islets in reversing hyperglycaemia (55.6% for CFA-PI vs 20.0% for native islets at 500 islet equivalents [IEQ], and 77.8% for CFA-PI vs 55.6% for native islets at 1000 IEQ), and significantly better than spontaneously aggregated control cells (55.6% for CFA-PI vs 0% for spontaneous aggregation at 500 IEQ, and 77.8% CFA-PI vs 33.4% for spontaneous aggregation at 1000 IEQ; p < 0.05). Glucose clearance in the CFA-PI groups was improved over that in the native islet groups (CFA-PI 18.1 mmol/l vs native islets 29.7 mmol/l at 60 min; p < 0.05) to the point where they were comparable with the non-transplanted naive normoglycaemic control mice at a low IEQ of 500 IEQ (17.2 mmol/l at 60 min).

Conclusions/interpretation: The ability to efficiently reformat dissociated islet cells into engineered pseudoislets with improved properties has high potential for both research and therapeutic applications.

Keywords: Hypoxia; Islet; Mouse; Pseudoislet; Transplant.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Cell Survival
  • DNA / analysis
  • Diabetes Mellitus / therapy*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / therapy
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Graft Survival
  • Humans
  • Hyperglycemia
  • Hypoxia
  • Insulin / blood*
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Islets of Langerhans / cytology*
  • Islets of Langerhans Transplantation*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Tissue Engineering*


  • Insulin
  • DNA
  • Glucose