Pancreatic Islet Transplantation : Modifications of Islet Properties to Improve Graft Survival

Sammanfattning: During the past decade clinical islet transplantation has become a viable strategy for curing type 1 diabetes. The limited supply of organs, together with the requirement for islets from multiple donors to achieve insulin independence, has greatly limited the application of this approach. The islets are infused into the liver via the portal vein, and once exposed to the blood, the grafted tissue has been shown to be damaged by the instant blood-mediated inflammatory reaction (IBMIR), which is characterized by coagulation and complement activation as well as leukocyte infiltration into the islets. Islet revascularization is a subsequent critical step for the long-term function of the transplanted graft, which may partially be impeded by the IBMIR. In this thesis, we have explored novel strategies for circumventing the effects of the IBMIR and facilitating islet revascularization. Systemic inhibitors of the IBMIR are typically associated with an increased risk of bleeding. We therefore evaluated alternative strategies for modulating the islets prior to transplantation. We demonstrated, using an adenoviral vector, that a high level of expression and secretion of the anticoagulant hirudin could be induced in human islets. An alternative approach to limiting the IBMIR was developed in which anticoagulant macromolecular heparin complexes were conjugated to the islet surface. This technique proved effective in limiting the IBMIR in both an in vitro blood loop model and an allogeneic porcine model of islet transplantation. An increased adhesion of endothelial cells to the heparin-coated islet surface was demonstrated, as was the capacity of the heparin conjugate to bind the angiogenic factors VEGF and FGF; these results have important implications for the revascularization process. The outcome of the work in this thesis suggests that modulation of the islet surface is an attractive alternative to systemic therapy as a strategy for preventing the IBMIR. Moreover, the same techniques can be employed to induce revascularization and improve the engraftment of the transplanted islets. Ultimately, improved islet viability and engraftment will make islet transplantation a more effective procedure and increase the number of patients whose diabetes can be cured.