Transplantation sites for human and murine islets

Rebecca A. Stokes, Kim Cheng, Amit Lalwani, Michael M. Swarbrick, Helen E. Thomas, Thomas Loudovaris, Tom W. Kay, Wayne J. Hawthorne, Philip J. O’Connell, Jenny E. Gunton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Aims/hypothesis: Beta cell replacement is a potential cure for type 1 diabetes. In humans, islet transplants are currently infused into the liver via the portal vein, although this site has disadvantages. Here, we investigated alternative transplantation sites for human and murine islets in recipient mice, comparing the portal vein with quadriceps muscle and kidney, liver and spleen capsules. Methods: Murine islets were isolated from C57BL6/J mice and transplanted into syngeneic recipients. Human islets were isolated and transplanted into either severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) or recombination-activating gene 1 (RAG-1) immunodeficient recipient mice. All recipient mice were 8–12 weeks of age and had been rendered diabetic (defined as blood glucose concentrations ≥20 mmol/l on two consecutive days before transplantation) by alloxan tetrahydrate treatment. Islets were transplanted into five different sites (portal vein, quadriceps muscle, kidney, liver and spleen capsules). Blood glucose concentrations were monitored twice weekly until mice were killed. Dose–response studies were also performed to determine the minimum number of islets required to cure diabetes (‘cure’ is defined for this study as random fed blood glucose of <15 mmol/l). Results: For transplantation of murine islets into the different sites, the kidney yielded 100% success, followed by muscle (70%), portal vein (60%), spleen capsule (29%) and liver capsule (0%). For human islets, transplantation into the kidney cured diabetes in 75–80% of recipient mice. Transplantation into muscle and portal vein had intermediate success (both 29% at 2000 islet equivalents), while transplantation into liver and spleen capsule failed (0%). With increased islet mass, success rates for muscle grafts improved to 52–56%. Conclusions/interpretation: For both human and murine islets, equivalent or superior glucose lowering results were obtained for transplantation into skeletal muscle, compared with the portal vein. Unfortunately, kidney grafts are not feasible in human recipients. Skeletal muscle offers easier access and greater potential for protocol biopsies. This study suggests that human trials of muscle as a transplant site may be warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1961-1971
Number of pages11
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Experimental diabetes mellitus
  • Heterologous transplantation
  • Islets of Langerhans
  • Isogeneic transplantation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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