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DRI Researchers to Present Findings at International Cell Transplant Congress

Miami, FL (February 2009) -– DRI scientists will be presenting information about a revolutionary technique to advance diabetes research at the 10th International Cell Transplant Congress in Japan in April.

For the first time, scientists can view how transplanted insulin-secreting cells -- called “islets” -- function when they are inside a living organism, or in vivo. In the past, researchers could only view the islets in a laboratory, or in vitro.

Last year, as reported in the scientific journal Nature Medicine, the DRI scientific team transplanted pancreatic mouse islets into the anterior chamber of a mouse eye, and then viewed the transplant through the mouse’s cornea, as if it were a living window.

Now, the DRI and scientists at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, are transplanting human islets into diabetic mice. In a paper, The Anterior Chamber of the Eye Allows Studying Human Islet Cell Biology In Vivo, researchers report: 

•After transplantation of 500 islet equivalents per eye, recipient mice achieved and maintained normal blood sugar levels for over 150 days.

•Within one month of the transplant, new blood vessels formed around the islet cells to deliver necessary nutrients (a process called “neovascularization”). 

•As more blood vessels grew around the islet cells, the mouse’s diabetes gradually reversed. 

“In summary,” the scientists report, “our data indicates that human islets transplanted into the ACE (anterior chamber of the eye) of immunodeficient mice engraft and are fully functional, allowing to achieve tight metabolic control.”

They also say the anterior chamber of the eye acts as “a natural window that allows for real-time, repeated, noninvasive imaging of human islet cells in vivo.

“This can be performed on the very same islet(s) of individual animals multiple times during the follow-up period, which represents the uniqueness of this model when compared to other in vivo models.”

The researchers authoring the paper are: Alejandro Caicedo, Rayner Rodriguez-Diaz, R. Damaris Molano, Camillo Ricordi and Antonello Pileggi of the DRI and Per-Olof Beggren of the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden.

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