Vascular heterogeneity between native rat pancreatic islets is responsible for differences in survival and revascularisation post transplantation.

PMID 25257098


Highly blood-perfused islets have been observed to be the most functional islets in the native pancreas. We hypothesised that differences in vascular support of islets in donor pancreases influence their susceptibility to cellular stress and capacity for vascular engraftment after transplantation. Highly blood-perfused islets in rats were identified by injection of microspheres into the ascending aorta before islet isolation. Cell death was evaluated after in vitro cytokine or hypoxia exposure, and 2 days post transplantation. One month post transplantation, islet engraftment, including vascular density, blood perfusion and oxygen tension (pO2) in the tissue, was evaluated. Microsphere-containing islets had a similar frequency of cell death during standard culture conditions but increased cell death after exposure to cytokines and hypoxia in comparison with other islets. Two days after transplantation the percentage of apoptotic or necrotic cells was also higher in grafts of such islets and 1 month post transplantation these grafts were composed of substantially more connective tissue. Grafts of highly blood-perfused islets in the native pancreas regained a higher vascular density, blood perfusion and pO2 in comparison with grafts of other islets. Native islets that are highly blood-perfused regained this feature after transplantation, indicating a superior capacity for revascularisation and post-transplant function. However, the same group of islets was more vulnerable to different kinds of cellular stress, which limited their early survival post transplantation. Preferential death of these most active islets may contribute to the high number of islets needed to provide cure with islet transplantation.