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Articles by Antonello Pileggi in JoVE

 JoVE Clinical and Translational Medicine

Near Infrared Optical Projection Tomography for Assessments of β-cell Mass Distribution in Diabetes Research

1Umeå Centre for Molecular Medicine, Umeå University, 2Cell Transplant Center, Diabetes Research Institute, University of Miami,, 3EMBL-CRG Systems Biology Program, Centre for Genomic Regulation, Catalan Institute of Research and Advanced Studies, 4Dept. of Computing Science, Umeå University

JoVE 50238

We describe the adaptation of optical projection tomography (OPT)1 to imaging in the near infrared spectrum, and the implementation of a number of computational tools. These protocols enable assessments of pancreatic β-cell mass (BCM) in larger specimens, increase the multichannel capacity of the technique and increase the quality of OPT data.

Other articles by Antonello Pileggi on PubMed

Transduction of Human and Mouse Pancreatic Islet Cells Using a Bicistronic Recombinant Adeno-associated Viral Vector

Recent reports indicate successful transduction of pancreatic islets using recombinant adeno-associated viral (rAAV) vectors. This advance offers new possibilities in rendering islets resistant to rejection and recurrence of autoimmune destruction in the setting of islet transplantation as treatment of type 1 diabetes. Most gene delivery approaches using islets have thus far involved transduction with a single gene. However, the concomitant delivery of more than one gene encoding cytoprotective and/or immunoregulatory molecules may offer superior clinical utility. Here, we have generated a bicistronic rAAV (serotype 2) vector incorporating a viral internal ribosome entry site (IRES), derived from polio virus type 1, to allow for translation of two coupled cDNAs from a single mRNA transcript. Our study demonstrates the ability of this vector to produce significant expression of two reporter proteins in human and mouse islets in vitro. This expression did not interfere with beta-cell function. Transduction was maintained in vivo following transplantation of mouse islets. These data are the first report of efficient islet cell transduction with two genes using a single bicistronic rAAV vector and have direct implications for strategies aimed at enhancing islet transplant survival.

Neonatal Porcine Pancreatic Cell Clusters As a Potential Source for Transplantation in Humans: Characterization of Proliferation, Apoptosis, Xenoantigen Expression and Gene Delivery with Recombinant AAV

Neonatal porcine islets are characterized by reproducible isolation success and high yields, sizable advantages over adult islets. In this work we have analyzed selected phenotypic and functional characteristics of porcine neonatal islets relevant to their possible use for transplant in humans. We show that porcine islet cells proliferate in culture, and synthesize and store islet-specific hormones. Proliferating beta cells can be easily identified. Implant of cultured neonatal islets in immunodeficient rodents results in the reversal of diabetes, albeit with delay. We also show that measurable apoptosis occurs in cultured neonatal porcine islets. Further, antigens recognized by human natural antibodies are expressed in a dynamic fashion over the culture period analyzed and are not limited to the alpha-Gal epitope. Lastly, we demonstrate that a recombinant Adeno-Associated virus can be used to efficiently deliver a reporter gene in porcine islets. This characterization might be helpful in the definition of the potential use of neonatal porcine islets for human transplantation.

Efficient Transduction of Pancreatic Islets by Feline Immunodeficiency Virus Vectors1

Pancreatic islets transplanted into immunocompetent diabetic subjects are rapidly lost to apoptotic or lytic death or both. Genetic engineering of islets before transplantation with protective genes may enhance their posttransplantation survival. Accomplishing this goal requires the development of a safe, efficient vector for islet gene delivery.

Adeno-associated Virus Transduction of Islets with Interleukin-4 Results in Impaired Metabolic Function in Syngeneic Marginal Islet Mass Transplantation

Previous studies suggest that therapeutic expression of interleukin (IL)-4 by islet cells improves their efficacy in transplantation models directed at reversing type 1 diabetes. We investigated the effects of introducing IL-4 into islets with recombinant adeno-associated virus (rAAV) on the reversal of hyperglycemia in a syngeneic marginal islet mass transplantation model. C57BL/6 islets were mock-transduced or transduced with rAAV expressing murine IL-4 (rAAV-IL-4) or rAAV expressing green fluorescent protein (rAAV-GFP) before transplantation of a marginal mass into diabetic mice. Normoglycemia was achieved in only 1/7 mice receiving rAAV-IL-4 transduced islets in comparison to 6/6 mock-transduced and 4/6 rAAV-GFP transduced animals. The failure of IL-4 expressing islets was not associated with cellular toxicity of rAAV or impairment of glucose-stimulated insulin release in vitro. Islet expression of IL-4 led to impaired metabolic function in mice receiving a marginal mass of syngeneic islets.

Adeno-associated Virus-mediated IL-10 Gene Therapy Inhibits Diabetes Recurrence in Syngeneic Islet Cell Transplantation of NOD Mice

Islet transplantation represents a potential cure for type 1 diabetes, yet persistent autoimmune and allogeneic immunities currently limit its clinical efficacy. For alleviating the autoimmune destruction of transplanted islets, newly diagnosed NOD mice were provided a single intramuscular injection of recombinant adeno-associated viral vector encoding murine IL-10 (rAAV-IL-10) 4 weeks before renal capsule delivery of 650 syngeneic islets. A dose-dependent protection of islet grafts was observed. Sixty percent (3 of 5) of NOD mice that received a transduction of a high-dose (4 x 10(9) infectious units) rAAV-IL-10 remained normoglycemic for at least 117 days, whereas diabetes recurred within 17 days in mice that received a low-dose rAAV-IL-10 (4 x 10(8) infectious units; 5 of 5) as well as in all of the control mice (5 of 5 untreated and 4 of 4 rAAV-green fluorescent protein-transduced). Serum IL-10 levels positively correlated with prolonged graft survival and were negatively associated with the intensity of autoimmunity. The mechanism of rAAV-IL-10 protection involved a reduction of lymphocytic infiltration as well as induction of antioxidant enzymes manganese superoxide dismutase and heme oxygenase 1 in islet grafts. These studies support the utility of immunoregulatory cytokine gene therapy delivered by rAAV for preventing autoimmune disease recurrence in transplant-based therapies for type 1 diabetes.

Prolonged Islet Allograft Survival in Diabetic NOD Mice by Targeting CD45RB and CD154

Clinical islet transplantation is a successful procedure that can improve the quality of life in recipients with diabetes. A drawback of the procedure is the need for chronic administration of immunosuppressive drugs that, among other side effects, are potentially diabetogenic. Definition of immunosuppressive protocols that utilize nondiabetogenic compounds could further improve islet transplantation outcome. We used the NOD mouse to assess the effect of targeting the T-lymphocyte surface receptors CD45RB and CD154 in preventing loss of allogeneic islet grafts as a result of recurrence of autoimmunity and allorejection. Administration of the two antibodies led to significantly prolonged allograft survival, with a percentage of grafts surviving long-term. The therapeutic efficacy of the treatment was paralleled by a shift in CD45RB isoform expression on T-lymphocytes, increased in vitro responsiveness to interleukin-7, and increased in vitro gamma-interferon production after anti-CD3 antibody stimulation. Furthermore, graft infiltration by CD8+ T-cells was remarkably reduced. Recipient mice bearing functioning allografts were otherwise immunocompetent, as assessed in vivo and in vitro by numerous tests, including intragraft cytokine production, responsiveness to polyclonal stimulation and alloantigens, and analysis of cell subset phenotype. These data show that nondiabetogenic regimens of immunomodulation can lead to prolonged islet allograft survival in the challenging NOD mouse model.

Nonlethal Conditioning for the Induction of Allogeneic Chimerism and Tolerance to Islet Allografts

We reported that tolerance to skin grafts can be achieved by chimerism induction by way of nonlethal conditioning. In the present study, we evaluated the outcome of islet allografts implanted either simultaneously or after donor bone marrow cell (BMC) infusion when nonlethal conditioning was used.

Heme Oxygenase-1 Fused to a TAT Peptide Transduces and Protects Pancreatic Beta-cells

Transplantation of islets is becoming an established method for treating type 1 diabetes. However, viability of islets is greatly affected by necrosis/apoptosis induced by oxidative stress and other insults during isolation and subsequent in vitro culture. Expression of cytoprotective proteins, such as heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1), reduces the deleterious effects of oxidative stress in transplantable islets. We have generated a fusion protein composed of HO-1 and TAT protein transduction domain (TAT/PTD), an 11-aa cell penetrating peptide from the human immunodeficiency virus TAT protein. Transduction of TAT/PTD-HO-1 to insulin-producing cells protects against TNF-alpha-mediated cytotoxicity. TAT/PTD-HO-1 transduction to islets does not impair islet physiology, as assessed by reversion of chemically induced diabetes in immunodeficient mice. Finally, we report that transduction of HO-1 fusion protein into islets improves islet viability in culture. This approach might have a positive impact on the availability of islets for transplantation.

Long-term Islet Allograft Survival in Nonobese Diabetic Mice Treated with Tacrolimus, Rapamycin, and Anti-interleukin-2 Antibody

Nonobese diabetic (NOD) mice develop autoimmune diabetes with features similar to those observed in the human disease. The concurrence of allorecognition and recurrence of autoimmunity might explain why most of the treatments successful in preventing islet allograft destruction in other nonautoimmune combinations often fail in NOD recipients. To assess the value of the NOD mouse model for the evaluation of treatments relevant to clinical islet transplantation, the authors have tested the effect of a protocol closely resembling the one successfully used in the Edmonton clinical trial on the survival of islet allografts in NOD mice.

The Effect of Simultaneous CD154 and LFA-1 Blockade on the Survival of Allogeneic Islet Grafts in Nonobese Diabetic Mice

The rate of success in clinical transplantation of islets of Langerhans has dramatically improved with perspectives of wide-scale applicability for patients with type 1 diabetes. One drawback is the need for lifelong immunosuppression, which is associated with significant side effects. Immunomodulatory strategies devoid of side effects and with tolerogenic potential, such as co-stimulatory blockade, would be a great improvement if successful. In this study, the authors have explored the effect of simultaneous blockade of CD40/CD154 and intercellular adhesion molecule (ICAM)/lymphocyte function-associated antigen (LFA)-1 interactions.

Adenoviral Gene Transfer of Erythropoietin Confers Cytoprotection to Isolated Pancreatic Islets

The transfer of cytoprotective genes to isolated pancreatic islets may contribute to their enhanced survival in the transplant setting. Our laboratory established the expression of functional erythropoietin (EPO) receptors throughout pancreatic islets. Because EPO is a cytokine that promotes survival, we examined whether adenovirus-mediated gene transfer of EPO would result in cytoprotection of human pancreatic islets in culture and in the transplant setting.

Targeted Bone Marrow Radioablation with 153Samarium-lexidronam Promotes Allogeneic Hematopoietic Chimerism and Donor-specific Immunologic Hyporesponsiveness

Transplantation tolerance, defined as acceptance of a graft by an otherwise fully immunocompetent host, has been an elusive goal. Although robust tolerance has been achieved by the induction of stable hematopoietic chimerism after bone marrow transplantation, lethal or sublethal radiation conditioning used to induce long-term chimerism precludes its clinical use. We studied whether targeted delivery of radiation to bone marrow could allow for bone marrow cell (BMC) engraftment, chimerism, and donor-specific tolerance in the absence of the side effects associated with external irradiation.

Delivery of Bcl-XL or Its BH4 Domain by Protein Transduction Inhibits Apoptosis in Human Islets

Viability of isolated islets is one of the main obstacles limiting islet transplantation success. It has been reported that overexpression of Bcl-2/Bcl-XL proteins enhances islet viability. To avoid potential complications associated with long-term expression of anti-apoptotic proteins, we investigated the possibility of delivering Bcl-XL or its anti-apoptotic domain BH4 to islets by protein transduction. Bcl-XL and BH4 molecules were fused to TAT/PTD, the 11-aa cell penetrating peptide from HIV-1 transactivating protein, generating TAT-Bcl-XL and TAT-BH4, respectively. Transduction efficiency was assessed by laser scanning confocal microscopy of live islets. Biological activity was tested as the ability to protect NIT-1 insulinoma cell line from death induced by staurosporine or serum deprivation. Spontaneous caspase activation in human islets and cytotoxicity caused by IL-1beta were significantly reduced in the presence of TAT-Bcl-XL and TAT-BH4. We conclude that both TAT proteins are biologically active after transduction and could be an asset in the improvement of islet viability.

Protecting Pancreatic Beta-cells

Type 1 diabetes mellitus is an autoimmune disorder in which the insulin-producing beta-cells of the pancreatic islets of Langerhans are selectively destroyed. Transplantation of allogeneic islets offers a novel therapeutic approach for type 1 diabetic patients. Primary obstacles to the successful outcome of this treatment are loss of the islets occurring first during the isolation procedure and then immediately following transplantation. The genetic make up of beta-cells contributes to making them particularly vulnerable to apoptosis and necrosis-induced cell death caused by the trauma of the isolation procedure and by non-specific inflammatory events at the transplantation site. In this review we present description of chemical and molecular biology based strategies to confer cytoprotection to beta-cells.

Alterations of the Female Reproductive System in Recipients of Islet Grafts

Transplantation of allogeneic tissues is becoming a wider practice for the replacement of organ function lost to congenital or acquired pathologies. Chronic immunosuppression remains a necessity to prevent organ rejection, despite increased risks of infection, organ toxicity, and malignancies. Abnormalities of female gonadal function in patients of reproductive age are recognized, however, pathological alterations of the reproductive system in patients treated with new generation immunosuppressive drugs are still poorly documented.

Twenty Years of Clinical Islet Transplantation at the Diabetes Research Institute--University of Miami

Transplantation of allogeneic pancreatic islets for the treatment of patients with Type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) is now a reality. The steady progress that has allowed for the recent successful clinical trials world-wide follows a steep learning curve and the perseverance of the international islet transplantation community. The Clinical Islet Transplant Program at the Diabetes Research Institute - University of Miami has contributed to the progress in the field with a 20-year track record. It has been a long journey and despite the intermediate success, more work is needed in order to achieve the ultimate goal of a safe and long-lasting treatment for patients with T1DM.

Rescue Purification Maximizes the Use of Human Islet Preparations for Transplantation

The relative inefficiency of the islet purification process may hamper obtaining enough islets for transplantation even with adequate pre-purification counts. In this study, we determined the effect of an additional purification step on total islet yields and pancreas utilization at our center. Twenty-five pancreata were processed using the automated method followed by continuous gradient purification (CGP), and the less pure islet fractions were subjected to additional rescue gradient purification (RGP). CGP and RGP islets were combined and transplanted into patients with type 1 diabetes. CGP and RGP islets showed no significant differences in cell viability, insulin secretion in vitro and function when transplanted into chemically diabetic mice. Mean RGP contribution to the final preparation was 27.9 +/- 19.9%. In 12 of 25 preparations, CGP yielded <5000 IEQ/kg of recipient body weight, and inclusion of RGP islets to the final preparation allowed to obtain the minimal islet number required for transplantation. Transplanted islets resulted in sustained C-peptide production, HbA1(C) normalization and insulin-independence or reduced insulin requirements. Taken together, our data suggest that RGP islets are comparable in terms of viability and potency to CGP islets. RGP may be of assistance in maximizing the number of islet preparations successfully used in transplant protocols.

Prolonged Allogeneic Islet Graft Survival by Protoporphyrins

Transplantation of islets of Langerhans in patients with type 1 diabetes allows for improved metabolic control and insulin independence. The need for chronic immunosuppression limits this procedure to selected patients with brittle diabetes. Definition of therapeutic strategies allowing permanent engraftment without the need for chronic immunosuppression could overcome such limitations. We tested the effect of the use of protoporphyrins (CoPP and FePP), powerful inducers of the cytoprotective protein heme-oxygenase 1 (HO-1), on allogeneic islet graft survival. Chemically induced diabetic C57BL/6 mice received DBA/2 islets. Treatment consisted in peritransplant administration of CoPP or saline. Islets were either cultured in the presence of FePP or vehicle before implant. Short-course administration of CoPP led to long-term islet allograft survival in a sizable proportion of recipients. Long-term graft-bearing animals rejected third-party islets while accepting a second set donor-specific graft permanently, without additional treatment. Preconditioning of islets with FePP by itself led to improved graft survival in untreated recipients, and provided additional advantage in CoPP-treated recipients, resulting in an increased proportion of long-term surviving grafts. Preconditioning of the graft with protoporphyrins prior to implant resulted in reduction of class II expression. Administration of protoporphyrins to the recipients of allogeneic islets also resulted in transient powerful immunosuppression with reduced lymphocyte proliferative responses, increased proportion of regulatory cells (CD4+CD25+), decreased mononuclear cell infiltrating the graft, paralleled by a systemic upregulation of HO-1 expression. All these mechanisms may have contributed to the induction of donor-specific hyporesponsiveness in a proportion of the protoporphyrin-treated animals.

A Novel Method for the Assessment of Cellular Composition and Beta-cell Viability in Human Islet Preparations

Current methodologies to evaluate islet cell viability are largely based on tests that assess the exclusion of DNA-binding dyes. While these tests identify cells that have lost selective membrane permeability, they do not allow us to recognize apoptotic cells, which do not yet stain with DNA-binding dyes. Furthermore, current methods of analysis do not discriminate between cell subsets in the preparation and, in particular, they do not allow for selectively defining beta-cell viability. For these reasons we have developed novel methods for the specific assessment of beta-cell content and viability in human islets based on cellular composition analysis through laser scanning cytometry (LSC) coupled with identification of beta-cell-specific apoptosis at the mitochondrial level. Our novel analytical methods hold promise to prospectively analyze clinical islet transplantation preparations and predict functional performance, as suggested by the observed correlation with in vivo analysis of islet potency in immunodeficient rodents.

Islet Transplantation in Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus Using Cultured Islets and Steroid-free Immunosuppression: Miami Experience

Following the success obtained with transplantation of fresh human islets under steroid-free immunosuppression, this trial evaluated the transplantation of islets that had undergone a period of in vitro culture and the potential of tumor necrosis factor (TNF-alpha) blockade to improve islet engraftment. Subjects included 16 patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM); half were randomly assigned to receive Infliximab immediately preceding initial infusion. Immunosuppression consisted of daclizumab induction and sirolimus/tacrolimus maintenance. Out of 16 subjects 14 achieved insulin independence with one or two islet infusions; adverse events precluded completion in two. Without supplemental infusions, 11/14 (79%) subjects were insulin independent at 1 year, 6/14 (43%) at 18 months; these same subjects remain insulin independent at 33+/-6 months. While on immunosuppression, all patients maintained graft function. Out of 14 patients, 8 suffered chronic partial graft loss, likely immunological in nature, 5 of these received supplemental infusions. Currently, 11 subjects remain on immunosuppression, 8 (73%) are insulin independent, two with supplemental infusions. Insulin independent subjects demonstrated normalization of HbA1c, fructosamine and Mean Amplitude of Glycemic Excursions (MAGE) values. No clinical benefit of infliximab was identified. These results demonstrate that transplantation of cultured human islet allografts results in reproducible insulin independence in all subjects under this immunosuppressive regimen, comparable to that of freshly transplanted islets (Edmonton protocol).

Delivery of TAT/PTD-fused Proteins/peptides to Islets Via Pancreatic Duct

Delivering cytoprotective proteins/peptides into pancreata prior to islet isolation through protein transduction (PT) is a novel strategy to enhance the yield of viable transplantable islets. Previous work has shown that the protein transduction domain PTD-5 efficiently transduced islets via the pancreatic duct. TAT/PTD is a well-characterized PTD with the capability to cross even the hemato-encephalic barrier. In this study, we investigated the utilization of the 11-aa TAT protein transduction domain (TAT/PTD) to deliver peptides or proteins of different sizes ranging from 1.2 to 120 kDa, as the TAT/PTD and TAT/PTD-BH4 peptide, or the TAT/PTD-beta-galactosidase fusion protein, into islets through the pancreatic duct. Using flow cytometry analysis we found that TAT/PTD derivatives transduced practically 100% of the islet cell population. Moreover, confocal laser scanning microscopy in live, nonfixed islets confirmed these results assessing transduction of TAT/PTD molecules into intact nondisaggregated islets. TAT-beta-galactosidase peptide conjugated to FITC was not compartment selective, as both cytoplasmic and nucleic cellular compartments were positively stained. Furthermore, TAT-beta-galactosidase peptide delivery was highly effective, as even cells located in the inner core region of the islets were transduced. Finally, transduced TAT-beta-galactosidase fusion protein was biologically active after islet isolation and manipulation, and islet insulin secretion capability was not compromised by peptide transduction. These findings suggest that the transduction of chimeric TAT/PTD proteins can represent an efficient tool of molecular delivery independent of the size, to enhance or modify a specific phenotype at the nuclei or cytoplasmic level.

Systemic Overexpression of Interleukin-10 Fails to Protect Allogeneic Islet Transplants in Nonobese Diabetic Mice

Interleukin (IL)-10 has proven effective in various allogeneic transplantation models and for preventing recurrent autoimmune rejection of syngeneic islets in NOD mice. Therefore, we evaluated systemic IL-10 overexpression on allogeneic islet graft survival. Diabetic NOD mice received a single injection of recombinant adeno-associated virus (rAAV) serotype 2 encoding murine IL-10 (rAAV-IL-10) four weeks prior to renal subcasular islet transplantation. In a model having both autoimmune and allogeneic responses, IL-10 failed to protect C57BL/6 islets in spontaneously diabetic NOD mice. In an allograft model (C57BL/6 islets into young male streptozotocin-induced diabetic NOD mice), long-term (i.e., >169 days) islet survival was only seen in 2 of 14 rAAV-IL-10 treated mice. These failures occurred despite in vivo IL-10 production at transplant previously associated with protection of syngeneic islet grafts in NOD mice. Thus, IL-10 appears insufficient in protecting transplanted islet cells from allogeneic rejection and suggests important mechanistic variances between alloreactivity and autoimmunity in terms islet graft loss.

Immunosuppression and Procedure-related Complications in 26 Patients with Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus Receiving Allogeneic Islet Cell Transplantation

The success of sirolimus and low-dose tacrolimus in islet cell transplantation has influenced many transplant centers to utilize this novel regimen. The long-term safety and tolerability of this steroid-free immunosuppressive protocol for allogeneic islet transplantation has yet to be determined.

Reversal of Diabetes by Pancreatic Islet Transplantation into a Subcutaneous, Neovascularized Device

Transplantation of pancreatic islets for the treatment of type 1 diabetes allows for physiologic glycemic control and insulin-independence when sufficient islets are implanted via the portal vein into the liver. Intrahepatic islet implantation requires specific infrastructure and expertise, and risks inherent to the procedure include bleeding, thrombosis, and elevation of portal pressure. Additionally, the relatively higher drug metabolite concentrations in the liver may contribute to the delayed loss of graft function of recent clinical trials. Identification of alternative implantation sites using biocompatible devices may be of assistance improving graft outcome. A desirable bioartificial pancreas should be easy to implant, biopsy, and retrieve, while allowing for sustained graft function. The subcutaneous (SC) site may require a minimally invasive procedure performed under local anesthesia, but its use has been hampered so far by lack of early vascularization, induction of local inflammation, and mechanical stress on the graft.

Overcoming the Challenges Now Limiting Islet Transplantation: a Sequential, Integrated Approach

Steady improvements in islet cell processing technology and immunosuppressive protocols have made pancreatic islet transplantation a clinical reality for the treatment of patients with Type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM). Recent trials are showing that improved glycemic metabolic control, prevention of severe hypoglycemia, and better quality of life can be reproducibly achieved after transplantation of allogeneic islets in patients with unstable T1DM. Despite these encouraging results, challenges ahead comprise obtaining adequate islet cells for transplant, enhancing islets engraftment, sustaining beta cell mass and function over time, and defining effective immune interventions, among others. In order to overcome the current hurdles to the widespread application of islet transplantation there is a need for implementation of integrated, sequential therapeutic approaches.

The Use of the BD Oxygen Biosensor System to Assess Isolated Human Islets of Langerhans: Oxygen Consumption As a Potential Measure of Islet Potency

The measurement of cellular oxygen consumption rate (OCR) is a potential tool for the assessment of metabolic potency of isolated islets of Langerhans prior to clinical transplantation. We used a commercially available 96-well plate fluoroprobe, the BD Oxygen Biosensor System (OBS), to estimate OCR in 27 human islet preparations, and compared these results to those of concurrent mouse transplantations. OCR was estimated both from the dO2 at steady state and from the transient rate of change of dO2 during the initial culture period immediately after seeding ("dO2 slope"). To demonstrate the validity of the OBS-derived values, it was shown that they scaled linearly with islet equivalent number/DNA concentration and with each other. These measurements were obtained for each preparation of islets incubated in media supplemented with either low (2.2 mM) or high (22 mM) glucose. Concurrently, one to three athymic nude mice were transplanted with 2,000 IEQs under the kidney capsule. The OCR Index, defined as the ratio of the DNA-normalized "dO2 slope" in high glucose to that in low glucose, proved highly predictive of mouse transplant results. Of the 69 mice transplanted, those receiving islets where the OCR Index exceeded 1.27 were 90% likely to reverse within 3 days, whereas those receiving islets with an OCR Index below 1.27 took significantly longer, often failing to reverse at all over a 35-day time period. These results suggest that the OBS could be a useful tool for the pretransplant assessment of islet cell potency.

The L-isoform but Not D-isoforms of a JNK Inhibitory Peptide Protects Pancreatic Beta-cells

The activation of c-jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) in pancreatic islets is associated with impaired function and viability, and JNK inhibitory peptides (JNKIs) are cytoprotective. In particular, l-isoforms of JNKIs were shown to improve islets viability, while the d-retroinverso isoform of JNKI (RI-JNKI), with a higher therapeutic potential due to longer half-life, has not been studied. We compared the cytoprotective properties of L-JNKI and RI-JNKI. Treatment of murine islets with L-JNKI resulted in preservation of islet equivalents and greater percentage of viable beta-cells in culture. In contrast, RI-JNKI was not protective. We found that L-JNKI but not RI-JNKI prevents endogenous c-jun phosphorylation in insulinoma cells. Moreover, RI-JNKI induced islet cells necrosis and activates the p-38 kinase. In conclusion, L-JNKI directly affects beta-cells and ameliorates islet viability and function, while RI-JNKI has toxic effects, limiting its biological application to islet cell biology.

Dapsone-induced Artifactual A1c Reduction in Islet Transplant Recipients

Resolution of Severe Atopic Dermatitis After Tacrolimus Withdrawal

Tacrolimus is an immunosuppressive agent used in solid organ and islet transplantation. Its topical form has shown benefit in the treatment of inflammatory skin conditions. Although tacrolimus has a wide spectrum of side effects, dermatological complications related to systemic tacrolimus therapy are limited in the literature. Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a chronic pruritic cutaneous condition that usually begins in infancy and is characterized by an increased Th2 response. We report the case of a patient with type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) and history of AD latent for 10 years who developed severe dermatitis and alopecia 5 months after undergoing allogeneic islet transplantation and initiating a steroid-free immunosuppressive regimen with sirolimus and tacrolimus maintenance. After exclusion of other possible causes for the progression and exacerbation of the clinical presentation of AD, discontinuation of tacrolimus and introduction of mycophenolate mofetil resulted in full remission of the symptoms. The beneficial effects of tacrolimus withdrawal suggest a cause-effect relationship between this adverse event and the utilization of the drug. Islet graft function remained stable after modification of the therapeutic regimen (stable glycemic control and unchanged C-peptide).

Heme Oxygenase-1 Upregulation Protects Against Intestinal Ischemia/reperfusion Injury: a Laboratory Based Study

Tissue damage caused by ischemia/reperfusion injury (IRI) of the intestine may lead to organ dysfunction in several clinical conditions, and is associated with increased incidence of chronic rejection after transplantation. Heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) is a stress-inducible protein capable of modulating inflammation, oxidative stress, and cell death. The aim of the present study was to assess the effects of HO-1 upregulation on intestinal IRI.

Toward Maximizing the Success Rates of Human Islet Isolation: Influence of Donor and Isolation Factors

In order to make islet transplantation a therapeutic option for patients with diabetes there is an urgent need for more efficient islet cell processing to maximize islet recovery. Improved donor management, organ recovery techniques, implementation of more stringent donor criteria, and improved islet cell processing techniques may contribute to enhance organ utilization for transplantation. We have analyzed the effects of donor and islet processing factors on the success rate of human islet cell processing for transplantation performed at a single islet cell processing center. Islet isolation outcomes improved when vasopressors, and in particular pitressin, and steroids were used for the management of multiorgan donors. Higher islet yields were obtained from adult male donors, BMI >25 kg/m2, adequate glycemic control during hospital stay, and when the pancreas was retrieved by a local surgical team. Successful isolations were obtained in 58% of the cases when > or = 4 donor criteria were met, and even higher success rates (69%) were observed when considering > or = 5 criteria. Our data suggest that a sequential, integrated approach is highly desirable to improve the success rate of islet cell processing.

Allogeneic Islet Transplantation

Significant progress has been made in the field of beta-cell replacement therapies by islet transplantation in patients with unstable Type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM). Recent clinical trials have shown that islet transplantation can reproducibly lead to insulin independence when adequate islet numbers are implanted. Benefits include improvement of glycemic control, prevention of severe hypoglycemia and amelioration of quality of life. Numerous challenges still limit this therapeutic option from becoming the treatment of choice for T1DM. The limitations are primarily associated with the low islet yield of human pancreas isolations and the need for chronic immunosuppressive therapies. Herein the authors present an overview of the historical progress of islet transplantation and outline the recent advances of the field. Cellular therapies offer the potential for a cure for patients with T1DM. The progress in beta-cell replacement treatment by islet transplantation as well as those of emerging immune interventions for the restoration of self tolerance justify great optimism for years to come.

Allosensitization of Islet Allograft Recipients

The immune monitoring of islet transplant recipients includes the assessment of panel reactive antibodies (PRA). A negative association of PRA+ with allogeneic solid organ graft survival has been recognized, but scattered data is available for islet transplantation.

Rapamycin Impairs in Vivo Proliferation of Islet Beta-cells

Progressive graft dysfunction is commonly observed in recipients of islet allografts treated with high doses of rapamycin. This study aimed at evaluating the effect of rapamycin on pancreatic islet cell proliferation in vivo.

Transplantation: Current Developments and Future Directions; the Future of Clinical Islet Transplantation As a Cure for Diabetes

Islet transplantation is now a therapeutic option for patients with unstable type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) with hypoglycemic unawareness. The benefits of this treatment include improvement in metabolic control with normalization of A1c and prevention of severe hypoglycemia. Insulin independence and improved quality of life can be reproducibly obtained by transplanting adequate islet numbers. Current obstacles to the widespread application of beta-cell replacement therapies include limited islet availability and the need for chronic immunosuppression. The emergence of promising interventions may be of assistance in improving islet recovery and favoring engraftment of smaller islet masses with comparable or better efficacy. In the future, regenerative efforts will contribute to overcoming this limitation as well. Combining these approaches with the development of safe immune interventions to induce self tolerance or to induce the permanent acceptance of transplanted tissues will be necessary to achieve long-term success. The steady progress and promising results of recent clinical trials justifies a great optimism toward the widespread application of beta-cell replacement as a treatment of choice for patients with diabetes.

Quantitative Differential Expression Analysis Reveals MiR-7 As Major Islet MicroRNA

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are non-coding gene products that regulate gene expression through specific binding to target mRNAs. Cell-specific patterns of miRNAs are associated with the acquisition and maintenance of a given phenotype, such as endocrine pancreas (islets). We hypothesized that a subset of miRNAs could be differentially expressed in the islets. Using miRNA microarray technology and quantitative RT-PCR we identified a subset of miRNAs that are the most differentially expressed islet miRNAs (ratio islet/acinar>150-fold), miR-7 being the most abundant. A similarly high ratio for miR-7 was observed in human islets. The ratio islet/acinar for miR-375, a previously described islet miRNA, was <10 and is 2.5x more abundant in the islets than miR-7. Therefore, we conclude that miR-7 is the most abundant endocrine miRNA in islets while miR-375 is the most abundant intra-islet miRNA. Our results may offer new insights into regulatory pathways of islet gene expression.

Noninvasive in Vivo Imaging of Pancreatic Islet Cell Biology

Advanced imaging techniques have become a valuable tool in the study of complex biological processes at the cellular level in biomedical research. Here, we introduce a new technical platform for noninvasive in vivo fluorescence imaging of pancreatic islets using the anterior chamber of the eye as a natural body window. Islets transplanted into the mouse eye engrafted on the iris, became vascularized, retained cellular composition, responded to stimulation and reverted diabetes. Laser-scanning microscopy allowed repetitive in vivo imaging of islet vascularization, beta cell function and death at cellular resolution. Our results thus establish the basis for noninvasive in vivo investigations of complex cellular processes, like beta cell stimulus-response coupling, which can be performed longitudinally under both physiological and pathological conditions.

Improved Metabolic Control and Quality of Life in Seven Patients with Type 1 Diabetes Following Islet After Kidney Transplantation

The beneficial effects of glycemic control on both survival and function of transplanted kidneys in patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) and end-stage renal disease (ESRD) have been recognized.

Exenatide and Rare Adverse Events

The Use of Exenatide in Islet Transplant Recipients with Chronic Allograft Dysfunction: Safety, Efficacy, and Metabolic Effects

A current limitation of islet transplantation is reduced long-term graft function. The glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonist, exenatide (Byetta, Amylin Pharmaceuticals, CA) has properties that could improve existing islet function, prevent further loss of islet mass and possibly even stimulate islet regeneration.

Restoration of Hypoglycemia Awareness After Islet Transplantation

To determine the impact of islet transplantation (ITx) on hypoglycemia awareness in patients with unstable type 1 diabetes and its relation to islet function.

Riboflavin Inhibits IL-6 Expression and P38 Activation in Islet Cells

Riboflavin is a water-soluble vitamin that reduces the production of proinflammatory mediators and oxygen radicals. Because islet beta-cells are very sensitive to oxidative stress and to cytokines, we investigated the possible cytoprotective effects of riboflavin on insulinoma NIT-1 cells and on isolated rodent islets. NIT-1 cells and islets cultured in the presence or absence of 10 microM riboflavin were studied at baseline and after exposure to cytokines (TNF-alpha, IL-1beta, INF-gamma). Riboflavin treatment did not affect islet cell viability as assessed by flow cytometry for caspases activation. However, riboflavin prevented the cytokine-induced increase in IL-6 mRNA expression and p38 phosphorylation analyzed by real-time PCR and immunoassay, respectively. In summary, nontoxic doses of riboflavin prevent cytokines-induced p38 phosphorylation and IL-6 upregulation in islet cells. This observation, together with the safety profile of riboflavin in the clinical setting, makes it an appealing agent for islet cytoprotection in islet transplantation protocols.

Characterization of Pancreatic Ductal Cells in Human Islet Preparations

Substantial amounts of nonendocrine cells are implanted as part of human islet grafts, and a possible influence of nonendocrine cells on clinical islet transplantation outcome has been postulated. There are currently no product release criteria specific for nonendocrine cells due to lack of available methods. The aims of this study were to develop a method for the evaluation of pancreatic ductal cells (PDCs) for clinical islet transplantation and to characterize them regarding phenotype, viability, and function. We assessed 161 human islet preparations using laser scanning cytometry (LSC/iCys) for phenotypic analysis of nonendocrine cells and flow cytometry (FACS) for PDC viability. PDC and beta-cells obtained from different density fractions during the islet cell purification were compared in terms of viability. Furthermore, we examined PDC ability to produce proinflammatory cytokines/chemokines, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and tissue factor (TF) relevant to islet graft outcome. Phenotypic analysis by LSC/iCys indicated that single staining for CK19 or CA19-9 was not enough for identifying PDCs, and that double staining for amylase and CK19 or CA19-9 allowed for quantitative evaluation of acinar cells and PDC content in human islet preparation. PDC showed a significantly higher viability than beta-cells (PDC vs beta-cell: 75.5+/-13.9 and 62.7+/-18.7%; P<0.0001). Although beta-cell viability was independent of its density, that of PDCs was higher as the density from which they were recovered increased. There was no correlation between PDCs and beta-cell viability (R(2)=0.0078). PDCs sorted from high-density fractions produced significantly higher amounts of proinflammatory mediators and VEGF, but not TF. We conclude that PDCs isolated from different fractions had different viability and functions. The precise characterization and assessment of these cells in addition to beta-cells in human islet cell products may be of assistance in understanding their contribution to islet engraftment and in developing strategies to enhance islet graft function.

Long-term Insulin Independence and Improvement in Insulin Secretion After Supplemental Islet Infusion Under Exenatide and Etanercept

Progressive graft dysfunction (GDF) and loss of insulin independence (II) have been invariably observed in islet transplant recipients under the "Edmonton protocol." To reestablish II, we performed supplemental islet infusions (SI) in recipients of allogeneic islet transplant alone, displaying GDF. To improve the engraftment and long-term graft function of SI, exenatide (EXN) and etanercept treatment at islet infusion, and long-term EXN treatment were tested in a non-randomized pilot clinical trial.

Inhibition of C-jun N-terminal Kinase Improves Insulin Sensitivity but Worsens Albuminuria in Experimental Diabetes

C-jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) regulates both the development of insulin resistance and inflammation. Podocytes of the widely used db/db mouse model of diabetic nephropathy lose their ability to respond to insulin as albuminuria develops, in comparison to control db/+ mice. Here we tested whether JNK inhibition or its gene deletion would prevent albuminuria in experimental diabetes. Phosphorylated/total JNK was significantly increased in vivo in glomeruli of db/db compared to db/+ mice. Treatment of podocytes isolated from these two strains of mice with tumor necrosis factor-alpha caused greater phosphorylation of JNK in those obtained from diabetic animals. When db/db mice were treated with a cell-permeable TAT-JNK inhibitor peptide, their insulin sensitivity and glycemia significantly improved compared to controls. We induced diabetes in JNK1 knockout mice with streptozotocin and found that they had significantly better insulin sensitivity compared to diabetic wild-type or JNK2 knockout mice. Albuminuria was, however, worse in all mice treated with the JNK inhibitor and in diabetic JNK2 knockout mice compared to controls. Nephrin expression was also reduced in JNK inhibitor-treated mice compared to controls. A similar degree of mesangial expansion was found in all diabetic mice. Our study shows that targeting JNK to improve systemic insulin sensitivity does not necessarily prevent diabetic nephropathy.

Stable Renal Function After Islet Transplantation: Importance of Patient Selection and Aggressive Clinical Management

Proteinuria development and decrease in glomerular filtration rate (GFR) have been observed after successful islet transplantation. The aim of this study was to determine clinical, laboratory, and immunosuppressant-related factors associated with kidney dysfunction in islet transplant recipients.

Impact of Pancreatic Cold Preservation on Rat Islet Recovery and Function

Islet transplantation success depends on the number and quality of islets transplanted. This study aimed at exploring the molecular mechanisms associated with cold pancreas preservation and their impact on islet cell survival and function.

Point: Steady Progress and Current Challenges in Clinical Islet Transplantation

Long-term Metabolic and Hormonal Effects of Exenatide on Islet Transplant Recipients with Allograft Dysfunction

The initial success of islet transplantation (ITx) is followed by graft dysfunction (GDF) and insulin reintroduction. Exenatide, a GLP-1 agonist, increases insulin and decreases glucagon secretion and has potential for beta-cell regeneration. To improve functional islet mass, exenatide treatment was given to ITx recipients with GDF. The objective of this study was to assess metabolic and hormonal effects of exenatide in GDF. In this prospective, single-arm, nonrandomized study, 11 type 1 diabetes recipients of ITx with GDF had HbA1c, weight, insulin requirements, and 5-h mixed meal tolerance test (MMTT; with/without exenatide given before test) at baseline, 3, 6, and 12 months after initiating exenatide treatment. Baseline MMTT showed postprandial hyperglycemia and hyperglucagonemia. Daily exenatide treatment resulted in improved glucose, increased amylin/insulin ratio, and decreased proinsulin/insulin ratio as assessed by MMTT. Glucagon responses remained unchanged. Exenatide administration 1 h before MMTT showed decreased glucagon and glucose at 0 min and attenuation in their postprandial rise. Time-to-peak glucose was delayed, followed by insulin, proinsulin, amylin, and C-peptide, indicating glucose-driven insulin secretion. Five subjects completed 12-month follow-up. Glucose and glucagon suppression responses after MMTT with exenatide were no longer observed. Retrospective 3-month analysis of these subjects revealed higher and sustained glucagon levels that did not suppress as profoundly with exenatide administration, associated with higher glucose levels and increased C-peptide responses. In conclusion, Exenatide suppresses the abnormal postprandial hyperglucagonemia and hyperglycemia observed in GDF. Changes in amylin and proinsulin secretion may reflect more efficient insulin processing. Different degrees of responsiveness to exenatide were identified. These may help guide the clinical management of ITx recipients.

Nephrin is Expressed on the Surface of Insulin Vesicles and Facilitates Glucose-stimulated Insulin Release

Nephrin, an immunoglobulin-like protein essential for the function of the glomerular podocyte and regulated in diabetic nephropathy, is also expressed in pancreatic beta-cells, where its function remains unknown. The aim of this study was to investigate whether diabetes modulates nephrin expression in human pancreatic islets and to explore the role of nephrin in beta-cell function.

Nonalbumin Proteinuria in Islet Transplant Recipients

The aim of this study was to evaluate the importance of nonalbumin-predominant proteinuria on kidney function (KF) after islet transplantation (ITx). Twenty-four-hour proteinuria and albuminuria were available in 27 recipients. KF was assessed by serum creatinine and estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) was calculated by Modification of Diet in Renal Disease formula. Correlations between eGFR and albuminuria (r = -0.422, p < 0.001) were higher than with proteinuria (r = -0.223, p < 0.001; p = 0.006 for comparison between correlations). Nineteen (70%) subjects had proteinuria >or= 300 mg/24 h during the follow-up. Subjects were divided into three groups according to urinary protein excretion patterns: no proteinuria (n = 8), nonalbumin-predominant (n = 8), and albumin-predominant (n = 11) proteinuria. Proteinuria >or= 500 mg/24 h was observed only among patients with albumin-predominant proteinuria (64%; p = 0.002) and these patients had the lowest eGFR means post-ITx (no proteinuria: 84.2 +/- 16.4 vs. nonalbumin: 69.1 +/- 13.8 vs. albumin-predominant proteinuria: 65.5 +/- 16.6 ml/min/1.73 m(2), p = 0.044 for first vs. last group). In conclusion, high frequency of proteinuria was observed after ITx. However, it seems to be milder and have less impact on KF when albumin is not the major source of proteinuria. Prospective evaluation of proteinuria, including tubular function markers, should be performed to elucidate the mechanisms of kidney damage in this population.

Recurrence of Type 1 Diabetes After Simultaneous Pancreas-kidney Transplantation, Despite Immunosuppression, is Associated with Autoantibodies and Pathogenic Autoreactive CD4 T-cells

To investigate if recurrent autoimmunity explained hyperglycemia and C-peptide loss in three immunosuppressed simultaneous pancreas-kidney (SPK) transplant recipients.

ATP-gated P2X3 Receptors Constitute a Positive Autocrine Signal for Insulin Release in the Human Pancreatic Beta Cell

Extracellular ATP has been proposed as a paracrine signal in rodent islets, but it is unclear what role ATP plays in human islets. We now show the presence of an ATP signaling pathway that enhances the human beta cell's sensitivity and responsiveness to glucose fluctuations. By using in situ hybridization, RT-PCR, immunohistochemistry, and Western blotting as well as recordings of cytoplasmic-free Ca(2+) concentration, [Ca(2+)](i), and hormone release in vitro, we show that human beta cells express ionotropic ATP receptors of the P2X(3) type and that activation of these receptors by ATP coreleased with insulin amplifies glucose-induced insulin secretion. Released ATP activates P2X(3) receptors in the beta-cell plasma membrane, resulting in increased [Ca(2+)](i) and enhanced insulin secretion. Therefore, in human islets, released ATP forms a positive autocrine feedback loop that sensitizes the beta cell's secretory machinery. This may explain how the human pancreatic beta cell can respond so effectively to relatively modest changes in glucose concentration under physiological conditions in vivo.

Prolactin Supplementation to Culture Medium Improves Beta-cell Survival

Recent studies demonstrated that prolactin (PRL) has beneficial effects on beta cells for islet transplantation. We examined the effect of human recombinant PRL (rhPRL) supplementation to the culture media to determine its potential use in the context of clinical islet transplantation.

Bone Marrow-derived Stem Cell Transplantation for the Treatment of Insulin-dependent Diabetes

The bone marrow is an invaluable source of adult pluripotent stem cells, as it gives rise to hematopoietic stem cells, endothelial progenitor cells, and mesenchymal cells, amongst others. The use of bone marrow-derived stem cell (BMC) transplantation (BMT) may be of assistance in achieving tissue repair and regeneration, as well as in modulating immune responses in the context of autoimmunity and transplantation. Ongoing clinical trials are evaluating the effects of BMC to preserve functional beta-cell mass in subjects with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and to favor engraftment and survival of transplanted islets. Additional trials are evaluating the impact of BMT (i.e., mesenchymal stem cells) on the progression of diabetes complications. This article reviews the progress in the field of BMC for the treatment of subjects with insulin-dependent diabetes, and summarizes clinical data of pilot studies performed over the last two decades at our research center by combining allogeneic islet transplantation with donor-specific BMC. Clinical data is summarized from pilot studies performed at our research center over the last two decades.

Recurrent Hypoglycemia Exacerbates Cerebral Ischemic Damage in Streptozotocin-induced Diabetic Rats

Stroke and heart disease are the most serious complications of diabetes accounting for >65% of mortality among diabetics. Although intensive insulin therapy has significantly improved the prognosis of diabetes and its complications, it is associated with an elevated risk of recurrent hypoglycemia (RH). We tested the hypothesis that RH exacerbates cerebral ischemic damage in a rodent model of diabetes.

Recurrent Hypoglycemia Increases Oxygen Glucose Deprivation-induced Damage in Hippocampal Organotypic Slices

More than 65% of mortality among diabetics is due to stroke and heart disease. The major side effect of intensive therapy in both type 1 and type 2 diabetics is recurrent hypoglycemic episodes (RH). Our previous study in a rat model of insulin-requiring diabetes indicated that RH exacerbates cerebral ischemic damage. Studies related to RH in hypoglycemia unawareness suggest that RH may be deleterious to outcome following cerebral ischemia owing to systemic effects, since hormonal response to hypoglycemia is impaired following RH. The goal of the present study was to determine if RH increases oxygen-glucose deprivation (OGD)-induced damage in hippocampal organotypic slices, which are devoid of systemic influence. Hippocampal slices cultured in ex vivo conditions for 9-10 days were exposed to ten 30-min episodes of "hypoglucose" (to mimic the hypoglycemic condition) medium (1.06 mM) twice a day. Slices were exposed to OGD 12h after the last hypo/normo-glucose exposure. OGD in control slices resulted in 60% neuronal death. The percentage of cell death in RH-treated slices was significantly higher by 24% than in control slices. The results demonstrate that RH can affect brain cells in the absence of humoral influence. In conclusion, the previous exposure of hippocampal slices to RH exacerbates OGD-induced damage. Understanding the mechanism by which RH increases ischemic damage in diabetics will help improve outcome following stroke.

Recurrence of Autoimmunity Following Pancreas Transplantation

Pancreas transplantation is a therapeutic option for patients with type 1 diabetes. Advances in immunosuppression have reduced immunologic failures, and these are usually categorized as chronic rejection. Yet studies in our cohort of pancreas transplant recipients identified several patients in whom chronic islet autoimmunity led to recurrent diabetes, despite immunosuppression that prevented rejection. Recurrent diabetes in our cohort is as frequent as chronic rejection, and thus is a significant cause of immunologic graft failure. Our studies demonstrated islet autoimmunity by the presence of autoantibodies and autoreactive T cells, which mediated ß-cell destruction in a transplantation model. Biopsy of the transplanted pancreas revealed variable degrees of ß-cell loss, with or without insulitis, in the absence of pancreas and kidney transplant rejection. Additional research is needed to better understand recurrent disease and to identify new treatment regimens that can suppress autoimmunity, as in our experience this is not effectively inhibited by conventional immunosuppression.

Blockade of Leukocyte Function Antigen-1 (LFA-1) in Clinical Islet Transplantation

High-resolution, Noninvasive Longitudinal Live Imaging of Immune Responses

Intravital imaging emerged as an indispensible tool in biological research, and a variety of imaging techniques have been developed to noninvasively monitor tissues in vivo. However, most of the current techniques lack the resolution to study events at the single-cell level. Although intravital multiphoton microscopy has addressed this limitation, the need for repeated noninvasive access to the same tissue in longitudinal in vivo studies remains largely unmet. We now report on a previously unexplored approach to study immune responses after transplantation of pancreatic islets into the anterior chamber of the mouse eye. This approach enabled (i) longitudinal, noninvasive imaging of transplanted tissues in vivo; (ii) in vivo cytolabeling to assess cellular phenotype and viability in situ; (iii) local intervention by topical application or intraocular injection; and (iv) real-time tracking of infiltrating immune cells in the target tissue.

Targeted Deletion of One or Two Copies of the G Protein β Subunit Gβ5 Gene Has Distinct Effects on Body Weight and Behavior in Mice

We investigated the physiological role of Gβ5, a unique G protein β subunit that dimerizes with regulators of G protein signaling (RGS) proteins of the R7 family instead of Gγ. Gβ5 is essential for stability of these complexes, so that its knockout (KO)causes degradation of the entire Gβ5-R7 family. We report that the Gβ5-KO mice remain leaner than the wild type (WT) throughout their lifetime and are resistant to a high-fat diet. They have a 5-fold increase in locomotor activity, increased thermogenesis, and lower serum insulin, all of which correlate with a higher level of secreted epinephrine. Heterozygous (HET) mice are 2-fold more active than WT mice. Surprisingly, with respect to body weight, the HET mice display a phenotype opposite to that of the KO mice: by the age of 6 mo, they are ≥ 15% heavier than the WT and have increased adiposity, insulin resistance, and liver steatosis. These changes occur in HET mice fed a normal diet and without apparent hyperphagia, mimicking basic characteristics of human metabolic syndrome. We conclude that even a partial reduction in Gβ5-R7 level can perturb normal animal metabolism and behavior. Our data on Gβ5 haploinsufficient mice may explain earlier observations of genetic linkage between R7 family mutations and obesity in humans.

The Thyroid Hormone-inactivating Type III Deiodinase is Expressed in Mouse and Human Beta-cells and Its Targeted Inactivation Impairs Insulin Secretion

Deiodinases are selenoproteins that activate or inactivate thyroid hormone. During vertebrate development, these pathways control thyroid hormone action in a cell-specific fashion explaining how systemic thyroid hormone can affect local control of tissue embryogenesis. Here we investigated the role of the thyroid hormone-inactivating deiodinase (D3) in pancreatic islet function and glucose homeostasis. D3 expression was determined by real-time PCR, immunofluorescence, and enzyme activity. Embryonic and adult wild-type mice and Mice with targeted disruption of Dio3 gene (D3KO) as well as human fetal pancreas and adult islets were studied. Insulin secretion was evaluated in adult mouse isolated islets. We found Dio3 gene expression and protein highly expressed in embryonic and adult pancreatic islets, predominantly in β-cells in both humans and mice. However, mRNA levels were barely detectable for both the thyroid hormone-activating deiodinases types 1 and 2. D3KO animals were found to be glucose intolerant due to in vitro and in vivo impaired glucose-stimulated insulin secretion, without changes in peripheral sensitivity to insulin. D3KO neonatal (postnatal day 0) and adult pancreas exhibited reduced total islet area due to reduced β-cell mass, insulin content, and impaired expression of key β-cells genes. D3 expression in perinatal pancreatic β-cells prevents untimely exposure to thyroid hormone, the absence of which leads to impaired β-cell function and subsequently insulin secretion and glucose homeostasis. An analogous role is likely in humans, given the similar D3 expression pattern.

Donor Islet Endothelial Cells in Pancreatic Islet Revascularization

Freshly isolated pancreatic islets contain, in contrast to cultured islets, intraislet endothelial cells (ECs), which can contribute to the formation of functional blood vessels after transplantation. We have characterized how donor islet endothelial cells (DIECs) may contribute to the revascularization rate, vascular density, and endocrine graft function after transplantation of freshly isolated and cultured islets.

Islet Transplantation & β-Cell Replacement Therapies for Diabetes

Antisense MiR-7 Impairs Insulin Expression in Developing Pancreas and in Cultured Pancreatic Buds

MicroRNAs regulate gene expression by inhibiting translation or inducing target mRNA degradation. MicroRNAs regulate organ differentiation and embryonic development, including pancreatic specification and islet function. We showed previously that miR-7 is highly expressed in human pancreatic fetal and adult endocrine cells. Here we determined the expression profile of miR-7 in the mouse-developing pancreas by RT-PCR and in situ hybridization. MiR-7 expression was low between embryonic days e10.5 and e11.5, then began to increase at e13.5 through e14.5, and eventually decreased by e18. In situ hybridization and immunostaining analysis showed that miR-7 colocalizes with endocrine marker Isl1, suggesting that miR-7 is expressed preferentially in endocrine cells. Whole-mount in situ hybridization shows miR-7 highly expressed in the embryonic neural tube. To investigate the role of miR-7 in development of the mouse endocrine pancreas, antisense miR-7 morpholinos (MO) were delivered to the embryo at an early developmental stage (e10.5 days) via intrauterine fetal heart injection. Inhibition of miR-7 during early embryonic life results in an overall downregulation of insulin production, decreased β-cell numbers, and glucose intolerance in the postnatal period. This phenomenon is specific for miR-7 and possibly due to a systemic effect on pancreatic development. On the other hand, the in vitro inhibition of miR-7 in explanted pancreatic buds leads to β-cell death and generation of β-cells expressing less insulin than those in MO control. Therefore, in addition to the potential indirect effects on pancreatic differentiation derived from its systemic downregulation, the knockdown of miR-7 appears to have a β-cell-specific effect as well. These findings suggest that modulation of miR-7 expression could be utilized in the development of stem cell therapies to cure diabetes.

Generation of Glucose-responsive, Insulin-producing Cells from Human Umbilical Cord Blood-derived Mesenchymal Stem Cells

We sought to assess the potential of human cord blood-derived mesenchymal stem cells (CB-MSCs) to derive insulin-producing, glucose-responsive cells. We show here that differentiation protocols based on stepwise culture conditions initially described for human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) lead to differentiation of cord blood-derived precursors towards a pancreatic endocrine phenotype, as assessed by marker expression and in vitro glucose-regulated insulin secretion. Transplantation of these cells in immune-deficient animals shows human C-peptide production in response to a glucose challenge. These data suggest that human cord blood may be a promising source for regenerative medicine approaches for the treatment of diabetes mellitus.

Beneficial Effects of Ischemic Preconditioning on Pancreas Cold Preservation

Ischemic preconditioning (IPC) confers tissue resistance to subsequent ischemia in several organs. The protective effects are obtained by applying short periods of warm ischemia followed by reperfusion prior to extended ischemic insults to the organs. In the present study, we evaluated whether IPC can reduce pancreatic tissue injury following cold ischemic preservation. Rat pancreata were exposed to IPC (10-min of warm ischemia followed by 10-min of reperfusion) prior to ~18-hrs of cold preservation before assessment of organ injury or islet isolation. Pancreas IPC improved islet yields (964±336 vs. 711±204IEQ/pancreas; p=0.004) and lowered islet loss after culture (33±10 vs. 51±14%; p=0.0005). Islet potency in vivo was well-preserved with diabetes reversal and improved glucose clearance. Pancreas IPC reduced levels of NADPH-dependent oxidase, a source of reactive oxygen species, in pancreas homogenates vs. controls (78.4±45.9 vs. 216.2±53.8 RLU/μg; p=0.002). Microarray genomic analysis of pancreata revealed upregulation of 81 genes and downregulation of 454 genes (>2-fold-change) when comparing IPC-treated glands to controls, respectively, and showing a decrease in markers of apoptosis and oxidative stress. Collectively, our study demonstrates beneficial effects of IPC of the pancreas prior to cold organ preservation and provides evidence of the key role of IPC-mediated modulation of oxidative stress pathways. The use of IPC of the pancreas may contribute to increasing the quality of donor pancreas for transplantation and to improving organ utilization.

Induction Therapy with Autologous Mesenchymal Stem Cells in Living-related Kidney Transplants: a Randomized Controlled Trial

Antibody-based induction therapy plus calcineurin inhibitors (CNIs) reduce acute rejection rates in kidney recipients; however, opportunistic infections and toxic CNI effects remain challenging. Reportedly, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have successfully treated graft-vs-host disease.

Prevention of Autoimmune Diabetes and Induction of β-cell Proliferation in NOD Mice by Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

We evaluated the effects of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HOT) on autoimmune diabetes development in nonobese diabetic (NOD) mice. Animals received no treatment or daily 60-min HOT 100% oxygen (HOT-100%) at 2.0 atmospheres absolute and were monitored for diabetes onset, insulitis, infiltrating cells, immune cell function, and β-cell apoptosis and proliferation. Cyclophosphamide-induced diabetes onset was reduced from 85.3% in controls to 48% after HOT-100% (P < 0.005) and paralleled by lower insulitis. Spontaneous diabetes incidence reduced from 85% in controls to 65% in HOT-100% (P = 0.01). Prediabetic mice receiving HOT-100% showed lower insulitis scores, reduced T-cell proliferation upon stimulation in vitro (P < 0.03), increased CD62L expression in T cells (P < 0.04), reduced costimulation markers (CD40, DC80, and CD86), and reduced major histocompatibility complex class II expression in dendritic cells (DCs) (P < 0.025), compared with controls. After autoimmunity was established, HOT was less effective. HOT-100% yielded reduced apoptosis (transferase-mediated dUTP nick-end labeling-positive insulin-positive cells; P < 0.01) and increased proliferation (bromodeoxyuridine incorporation; P < 0.001) of insulin-positive cells compared with controls. HOT reduces autoimmune diabetes incidence in NOD mice via increased resting T cells and reduced activation of DCs with preservation of β-cell mass resulting from decreased apoptosis and increased proliferation. The safety profile and noninvasiveness makes HOT an appealing adjuvant therapy for diabetes prevention and intervention trials.

Mesenchymal Stem Cells for the Treatment of Diabetes

Inflammation-Mediated Regulation of MicroRNA Expression in Transplanted Pancreatic Islets

Nonspecific inflammation in the transplant microenvironment results in β-cell dysfunction and death influencing negatively graft outcome. MicroRNA (miRNA) expression and gene target regulation in transplanted islets are not yet well characterized. We evaluated the impact of inflammation on miRNA expression in transplanted rat islets. Islets exposed in vitro to proinflammatory cytokines and explanted syngeneic islet grafts were evaluated by miRNA arrays. A subset of 26 islet miRNAs was affected by inflammation both in vivo and in vitro. Induction of miRNAs was dependent on NF-κB, a pathway linked with cytokine-mediated islet cell death. RT-PCR confirmed expression of 8 miRNAs. The association between these miRNAs and mRNA target-predicting algorithms in genome-wide RNA studies of β-cell inflammation identified 238 potential miRNA gene targets. Several genes were ontologically associated with regulation of insulin signaling and secretion, diabetes, and islet physiology. One of the most activated miRNAs was miR-21. Overexpression of miR-21 in insulin-secreting MIN6 cells downregulated endogenous expression of the tumor suppressor Pdcd4 and of Pclo, a Ca(2+) sensor protein involved in insulin secretion. Bioinformatics identified both as potential targets. The integrated analysis of miRNA and mRNA expression profiles revealed potential targets that may identify molecular targets for therapeutic interventions.

Intracardial Embryonic Delivery of Developmental Modifiers in Utero

Our knowledge of organ ontogeny is largely based on loss-of-function (knockout) or gain-of-function (transgenesis) approaches. However, developmental modulators such as proteins, mRNAs, microRNAs(miRNAs), small interfering RNAs, and other small molecules may complement the above DNA-modifying technologies in a much more direct way. Unfortunately, their use is often limited by the ability of these compounds to cross the placenta and reach physiologically relevant concentrations when administered systemically to the mother. The design of safe and effective techniques to deliver these compounds into the embryo is therefore an area of great scientific potential. In this article we report a new method for introducing developmental modulators into murine embryos by means of direct injection into the heart. Unlike other reported methods that require surgical exposure of the uterus, our percutaneous ultrasound-guided approach allows for the intracardial injection of mouse embryos as early as embryonic day 10.5 (e10.5) and throughout gestation in a minimally invasive manner that largely preserves embryo viability. This system offers a critical advantage over in vitro settings because the effects of any given treatment can be observed without disturbing the native environment of the developing organ. Procedures are described for the delivery and detection of transducible proteins as well as morpholinos designed to block the expression of specific miRNAs within the living embryo.

Macroporous Three Dimensional PDMS Scaffolds for Extrahepatic Islet Transplantation

Clinical islet transplantation has demonstrated success in treating type 1 diabetes. A current limitation is the intrahepatic portal vein transplant site, which is prone to mechanical stress and inflammation. Transplantation of pancreatic islets into alternative sites is preferable, but challenging, as it may require a three-dimensional vehicle to confer mechanical protection and to confine islets to a well-defined, retrievable space where islet neovascularization can occur. We have fabricated biostable, macroporous scaffolds from poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS) and investigated islet retention and distribution, metabolic function, and glucose-dependent insulin secretion within these materials. Islets from multiple sources, including rodents, nonhuman primates, and humans, were tested in vitro. We observed high islet retention and distribution within PDMS scaffolds, with retention of small islets (< 100 μm) improved through the post-loading addition of fibrin gel. Islets loaded within PDMS scaffolds exhibited viability and function comparable to standard culture conditions when incubated under normal oxygen tensions, but displayed improved viability compared to standard two-dimensional culture controls under low oxygen tensions. In vivo efficacy of scaffolds to support islet grafts was evaluated after transplantation in the omental pouch of chemically-induced diabetic syngeneic rats, which promptly achieved normoglycemia. Collectively, these results are promising in that they indicate the potential for transplanting islets into a clinically relevant, extrahepatic site that provides spatial distribution of islets, as well as intra-device vascularization.

Noninvasive in Vivo Model Demonstrating the Effects of Autonomic Innervation on Pancreatic Islet Function

The autonomic nervous system is thought to modulate blood glucose homeostasis by regulating endocrine cell activity in the pancreatic islets of Langerhans. The role of islet innervation, however, has remained elusive because the direct effects of autonomic nervous input on islet cell physiology cannot be studied in the pancreas. Here, we used an in vivo model to study the role of islet nervous input in glucose homeostasis. We transplanted islets into the anterior chamber of the eye and found that islet grafts became densely innervated by the rich parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous supply of the iris. Parasympathetic innervation was imaged intravitally by using transgenic mice expressing GFP in cholinergic axons. To manipulate selectively the islet nervous input, we increased the ambient illumination to increase the parasympathetic input to the islet grafts via the pupillary light reflex. This reduced fasting glycemia and improved glucose tolerance. These effects could be blocked by topical application of the muscarinic antagonist atropine to the eye, indicating that local cholinergic innervation had a direct effect on islet function in vivo. By using this approach, we found that parasympathetic innervation influences islet function in C57BL/6 mice but not in 129X1 mice, which reflected differences in innervation densities and may explain major strain differences in glucose homeostasis. This study directly demonstrates that autonomic axons innervating the islet modulate glucose homeostasis.

Long-Term Heart Transplant Survival by Targeting the Ionotropic Purinergic Receptor P2X7

BACKGROUND: Heart transplantation is a lifesaving procedure for patients with end-stage heart failure. Despite much effort and advances in the field, current immunosuppressive regimens are still associated with poor long-term cardiac allograft outcomes as well as with the development of complications including infections and malignancies. The development of a novel, short-term and effective immunomodulatory protocol will thus be an important achievement. The purine adenosine 5'-triphosphate (ATP), released during cell damage/activation, is sensed by the ionotropic purinergic receptor P2X7 (P2X7R) on lymphocytes and regulates T cell activation. Novel clinical-grade P2X7R inhibitors are available, rendering the targeting of P2X7R a potential therapy in cardiac transplantation. METHODS AND RESULTS: We analyzed P2X7R expression in patients and mice and P2X7R targeting in murine recipients in the context of cardiac transplantation. Our data demonstrate that P2X7R is specifically upregulated in graft-infiltrating lymphocytes in cardiac-transplanted humans and mice. Short-term P2X7R targeting with periodate-oxidized ATP (oATP) promotes long-term cardiac transplant survival in 80% of murine recipients of a fully mismatched allograft. Long-term survival of cardiac transplants was associated with reduced T cell activation, Th1/Th17 differentiation and inhibition of STAT3 phosphorylation in T cells, thus leading to a reduced transplant infiltrate and coronaropathy. In vitro genetic upregulation of the P2X7R pathway was also shown to stimulate Th1/Th17 cell generation. Finally, P2X7R targeting halted the progression of coronaropathy in a murine model of chronic rejection as well. CONCLUSIONS: P2X7R targeting is a novel clinically relevant strategy to prolong cardiac transplant survival.

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