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Transplantation. 2000 Mar 15;69(5):711-9.

Damage to porcine islets of Langerhans after exposure to human blood in vitro, or after intraportal transplantation to cynomologus monkeys: protective effects of sCR1 and heparin.

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  • 1Department of Transplantation Surgery, Karolinska Institutet, Huddinge Hospital, Sweden.



Porcine islets offer an attractive alternative to human islets in clinical islet transplantation. The preferred method of islet transplantation is intra-portal injection into the liver. We have recently shown, both in vitro with human islets and in vivo with porcine islets, that islets exposed to allogeneic blood trigger an injurious inflammatory reaction characterized by activation of both coagulation and the complement systems. We have now tested whether a similar reaction is triggered when xenogeneic porcine islets are exposed to human blood in vitro and after intraportal transplantation into primates. Furthermore, we investigated the effect of inhibiting the complement and coagulation systems.


Islets isolated from adult and fetal porcine pancreas were perfused with fresh human blood in surface heparinized PVC tubings for 5-60 min. Blood cell counts and parameters related to coagulation and the complement system were analyzed, and islets were retrieved after the perifusion was examined by immunohistochemical method. Heparin and soluble complement receptor 1 (sCR1; TP10, 100 microg/ml) were added to the system in some experiments. Furthermore, adult porcine islets were transplanted intraportally into untreated and sCR1- (40 mg/kg BW i.v.) treated cynomolgus monkeys, and plasma insulin concentration was monitored during 60 min after transplantation.


Porcine islets perifused with human blood triggered an immediate inflammatory reaction, characterized by a rapid consumption and activation of platelets, consumption of neutrophils and monocytes, activation of the coagulation and complement systems, and release of large amounts of insulin. Islet morphologic analysis revealed damaged islets embedded in clots and infiltrated with CD11+ leukocytes. C3a and C5b-9 was deposited on the islet surface, but human immunoglobulin was not. Complement inhibition with sCR1 reduced insulin release significantly. Intraportal islet transplantation into untreated cynomolgus monkeys resulted in a marked and rapid increase in plasma insulin concentration indicative of islet damage. Pretreatment of the monkeys with sCR1 resulted in significantly less insulin release than in untreated control monkeys.


Exposure of isolated xenogeneic islets of Langerhans to blood, both in vitro and in vivo, resulted in acute islet damage. Complement and platelets seem to have a central role in the reactions described. Strategies to efficiently inhibit these reactions will be crucial for clinical intraportal islet xenotransplantation to be successful.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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