BACKGROUND - Problems associated with the hepatic transplantation of islets may preclude the broad application of islet transplantation. Thus, we sought to develop an approach to the extrahepatic transplantation of islets using a synthetic biodegradable polymer scaffold.
METHODS - Microporous polymer scaffolds that allow vascular ingrowth and nutrient diffusion from host tissues were fabricated from copolymers of lactide and glycolide. Murine islets were transplanted without or with a scaffold onto intraperitoneal fat of syngeneic diabetic recipients. Bioluminescence imaging using a cooled charge-coupled device camera, immunohistochemistry, and glycemia were used to assess islet engraftment and function posttransplant.
RESULTS - By bioluminescence imaging, islets transplanted on a polymer scaffold remain localized to the transplant site and survive for an extended period of time. Islets transplanted on scaffolds retained the architecture of native islets and developed a functional islet vasculature. Transplantation of marginal masses of islets on the polymer scaffold demonstrated improved islet function compared to transplantation without a scaffold as assessed by the effectiveness of diabetes reversal, including mean time required to achieve euglycemia, weight gain, and glucose levels during an intraperitoneal glucose tolerance test.
CONCLUSION - These findings indicate that a synthetic polymer scaffold can serve as a platform for islet transplantation and improves the function of extrahepatically transplanted islets compared to islets transplanted without a scaffold. The scaffold may also be useful to deliver bioactive molecules to modify the microenvironment surrounding the transplanted islets and, thus, enhance islet survival and function.