Ultrastructural evidence for blood microvessels devoid of an endothelial cell lining in transplanted pancreatic islets

Am J Pathol. 1995 Feb;146(2):429-35.


The aim of the present study was to investigate, at the ultrastructural level, the process of revascularization of freshly isolated islets or cultured islets after transplantation under the kidney capsule of syngeneic mice. Native islets in adult pancreases from mice, pigs, and humans contained only capillaries with fenestrated endothelium. However, the endothelial cell lining was disrupted in both freshly isolated and cultured mouse islets. Shortly after transplantation (6 weeks) approximately 80% of graft microvessels contained no endothelial cell lining. Similar data on microvessel morphology were found when fetal porcine islet-like cell clusters were implanted into athymic nude mice. Re-endothelialization was a slow process, with 25% of the microvessels still lacking endothelium 6 months after transplantation of cultured mouse islets or islet-like cell cluster. However, when freshly isolated mouse islets are used only 25% of microvessels within the islet graft lacked endothelium 6 weeks after implantation. We suggest that capillaries damaged during islet isolation may provide a preformed channel, serving as a scaffold for newly formed islet graft blood vessels. The presence of non-endothelialized microvessels, with an associated lack of barrier function, might make transplanted islets more prone to thrombosis or an attack by the immune system. This provides a tentative explanation for the increased vulnerability of islet grafts when compared with whole pancreas transplants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Endothelium, Vascular / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Islets of Langerhans / blood supply
  • Islets of Langerhans / ultrastructure*
  • Islets of Langerhans Transplantation / pathology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Nude
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / pathology*
  • Swine
  • Time Factors