Background: Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease characterized by T-cell-mediated destruction of pancreatic beta-cells. Islet transplantation is an effective therapy, but its success is limited by islet quality and availability along with the need for immunosuppression. New approaches include the use of stem cell-derived insulin-producing cells and immunomodulatory therapies, but a limitation is the paucity of reproducible animal models in which interactions between human immune cells and insulin-producing cells can be studied without the complication of xenogeneic graft-versus-host disease (xGVHD).
Methods: We expressed an HLA-A2-specific chimeric antigen receptor (A2-CAR) in human CD4 + and CD8 + T cells and tested their ability to reject HLA-A2 + islets transplanted under the kidney capsule or anterior chamber of the eye of immunodeficient mice. T-cell engraftment, islet function, and xGVHD were assessed longitudinally.
Results: The speed and consistency of A2-CAR T-cell-mediated islet rejection varied depending on the number of A2-CAR T cells and the absence/presence of coinjected peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). When <3 million A2-CAR T cells were injected, coinjection of PBMCs accelerated islet rejection but also induced xGVHD. In the absence of PBMCs, injection of 3 million A2-CAR T cells caused synchronous rejection of A2 + human islets within 1 wk and without xGVHD for 12 wk.
Conclusions: Injection of A2-CAR T cells can be used to study rejection of human insulin-producing cells without the complication of xGVHD. The rapidity and synchrony of rejection will facilitate in vivo screening of new therapies designed to improve the success of islet-replacement therapies.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT05210530.
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