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Islet transplants for large numbers of patients with diabetes will require xenografts. Microencapsulation is an appealing method for islet xenografting. However, graft function has been limited by a cellular reaction, particularly intense in spontaneously diabetic, NOD mice. The purpose of this study was to elucidate the mechanism of this reaction. Poly-1-lysine-alginate microcapsules containing 4000-12,000 dog or 1800-2000 rat islets were xenografted intraperitoneally into streptozotocin (SZN)-diabetic C57BL/6J and NOD mice, with or without recipient treatment with GK 1.5 (anti-CD4 monoclonal antibody) (20-30 microliters i.p. every 5 days, begun on day -7. Grafts were considered technically successful if random blood glucose (BG) was normalized (less than 150 mg/dl) within 36 hr. Graft failure was defined as BG greater than 250 mg/dl. Dog and rat islets in microcapsules normalized BG in both SZN and NOD mice within 24 hr routinely. Empty microcapsules and GK 1.5 treatments alone did not affect BG. NODs destroyed both microencapsulated dog and rat islets more rapidly than did SZN-diabetic mice (P less than .01). Graft biopsies showed an intense cellular reaction, composed of lymphocytes, macrophages and giant cells, and no viable islets. GK 1.5 treatment significantly prolonged both dog-to-NOD and rat-to-NOD grafts (P less than 0.01). Biopsies of long-term functioning grafts (on days 65-85) demonstrated viable islets and no cellular reaction around microcapsules; 1/4 rat and 1/8 dog islet xenografts continued to function indefinitely in NOD recipients, even after cessation of GK 1.5 therapy. Prediabetic NODs receiving encapsulated dog or rat islets mounted a moderate cellular reaction to grafts. Empty microcapsules excited no cellular reaction in diabetic or prediabetic NODs. We conclude that the NOD reaction to microencapsulated xenogeneic islets is helper T cell-dependent, and that the target of this reaction is not the microcapsule itself, but the donor cells within.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





396 - 404


Department of Surgery, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, New York 10032.


Islets of Langerhans, CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes, T-Lymphocytes, Helper-Inducer, Animals, Dogs, Mice, Mice, Mutant Strains, Rats, Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental, Membranes, Artificial, Islets of Langerhans Transplantation, Transplantation, Heterologous, Microspheres, Cytotoxicity, Immunologic, Immunity, Cellular, Graft Survival