Xenotransplantation of encapsulated porcine islets

  • Anthony M. Sun


Interspecies tissue and organ transplants (xenografts) have been imagined but not attained for thousands of years. Type 1 diabetic individuals depended for survival on insulin of xenogeneic origin (pigs and cows) from Banting and Best’s first report in 1922 until the introduction of recombinant human insulin in the 1980s. A logical though until now impossible extension of the use of xenogeneic cell products is direct implantation of living xenogeneic cells. Researchers attempting this objective have had to deal with two key problems: (i) How many islets (or beta cells) are needed and where should they be implanted? (ii) What protective measures must be applied to protect islet viability? Sun, recounts his efforts to overcome both immunorejection and autoimmune rejection by immunoisolation of pancreatic islets. By first encasing rat islets in a semipermeable alginate-polysine-alginate microcapsule and then injecting encapsulated islets into induced diabetic mice, islet viability of 70–90% was attained for 3 months. Subsequently, a reproducible technique for porcine islet isolation was used to treat spontaneously diabetic cynomolgus monkeys with seven of nine monkeys rendered insulin independent for as long as 804 days. Sporadic successes using diverse techniques to implant islets in type 1 diabetic humans have been reported for two decades, each time engendering enthusiasm that a solution had been found. There is enough promise in the concept of microencapsulating xenogeneic islets to prompt an active clinical trial in China.


Pancreatic Islet Diabetic Mouse Diffusion Chamber Insulin Independence Guluronic Acid 
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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1998

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  • Anthony M. Sun

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