The Role of the Innate Immunity in Islet Transplantation
Clinical islet transplantation is an emerging procedure to cure type 1 diabetes. The graft is implanted by infusion into the liver through the portal vein. A major obstacle that still needs to be overcome is the requirement for islets from multiple donors to achieve insulin independence.
An innate inflammatory reaction, the IBMIR, is elicited when islets are exposed to blood. The IBMIR has been described as a clotting reaction culminating in disruption of islet morphology and is a plausible cause for loss of tissue during the early post-transplant period. In this thesis, the underlying mechanisms of the IBMIR were characterized. The IBMIR was for the first time demonstrated in patients undergoing an islet transplant, and a number of clinically applicable strategies to limit this reaction were identified.
The thrombin inhibitor melagatran completely blocked the IBMIR in an in vitro tubing blood loop system, indicating that thrombin is the driving force in the reaction. Interestingly, islets were shown to produce and secrete tissue factor (TF), the physiological trigger of coagulation. Inactivated FVIIa, a specific inhibitor of TF, successfully blocked initiation of the IBMIR. An alternative approach to limit the IBMIR was to pre-treat islets in culture prior to transplantation. Nicotinamide added to the culture medium effectively decreased the level of TF in human islets. Infiltration of immune cells, also a part of the IBMIR, was characterized in detail. The predominant cell types infiltrating the islets were neutrophilic granulocytes and, to a lesser degree, monocytes. Both cell types may exert direct cytotoxic effects, and the antigen-presenting monocytes may also be important for directing the specific immune system to the site of inflammation. These findings have provided new insight into the nature of the IBMIR and offer several new strategies to improve the outcome of clinical islet transplantation.
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