Transplantation of the islets of Langerhans could be the most promising approach to the clinical treatment of insulin-dependent (type I) diabetes mellitus. In this study, we report on a modified encapsulation technique that produces small alginate-polylysine capsules (0.25–0.35 mm diam). In an in vitro study, both encapsulated and unencapsulated islets showed comparable responses to glucose challenge in terms of insulin secretion. With the new capsules, 16 spontaneously diabetic NOD mice received transplants of 800 encapsulated rat islets/animal. Nonfasting blood glucose concentration decreased from 24.4 ± 1.4 to 4.0 ± 1.3 mM. At 4 and 5 mo posttransplantation, the capsules were removed from 2 recipients. Both animals regressed to a hyperglycemic state after capsule removal. However, after another islet transplantation, normoglycemia was again restored in these 2 animals. In control mice, which received unencapsulated islets, the xenografts remained functional for <10 days. A high mortality rate was observed among these animals within 2 mo of the recurrence of the hyperglycemic state. Our results clearly indicate that encapsulation of pancreatic islets in the improved capsules can effectively prolong xenograft survival without immunosuppression in an animal model that mimics human type I diabetes mellitus.

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