Evaluating Vascularization of Heterotopic Islet Constructs for Type 1 Diabetes Using an In Vitro Platform

Annie C. Bowles, Matthew M. Ishahak, Samuel J. Glover, Diego Correa, Ashutosh Agarwal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Type 1 diabetes (T1D) results from the autoimmune destruction of β-cells within the pancreatic islets of Langerhans. Clinical islet transplantation from healthy donors is proposed to ameliorate symptoms, improve quality of life, and enhance the life span of afflicted T1D patients. However, post-transplant outcomes are dependent on the survival of the transplanted islets, which relies on the engraftment of the islets with the recipient's vasculature among other factors. Treatment strategies to improve engraftment include combining islets with supporting cells including endothelial cells (EC) and mesenchymal stem cells (MSC), dynamic cells capable of robust immunomodulatory and vasculogenic effects. In this study, we developed an in vitro model of transplantation to investigate the cellular mechanisms that enhance rapid vascularization of heterotopic islet constructs. Self-assembled vascular beds of fluorescently stained EC served as reproducible in vitro transplantation sites. Heterotopic islet constructs composed of islets, EC, and MSC were transferred to vascular beds for modeling transplantation. Time-lapsed imaging was performed for analysis of the vascular bed remodeling for parameters of neo-vascularization. Moreover, sampling of media following modeled transplantation showed secretory profiles that were correlated with imaging analyses as well as with islet function using glucose-stimulated insulin secretion. Together, evidence revealed that heterotopic constructs consisting of islets, EC, and MSC exhibited the most rapid recruitment and robust branching of cells from the vascular beds suggesting enhanced neo-vascularization compared to islets alone and control constructs. Together, this evidence supports a promising cell transplantation strategy for T1D and also demonstrates a valuable tool for rapidly investigating candidate cellular therapies for transplantation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)331-341
Number of pages11
JournalIntegrative biology : quantitative biosciences from nano to macro
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 30 2019


  • cell transplantation
  • mesenchymal stem cells
  • pancreatic islets
  • type 1 diabetes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry


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