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The Role of Oxygen 

Delivering Oxygen to Cells

Islet cells need lots of oxygen. In fact, the importance of oxygen to islets cannot be overstated.

While these cells make up only 1 to 2 percent of the pancreas, they utilize almost 25 percent of the oxygen. The organ’s vast network of blood vessels delivers oxygen and other vital nutrients directly to these cells.

But when islets are isolated from the pancreas – taken from their native environment -- and then transplanted into their new home, they temporarily lose their supply of oxygen. Eventually, new blood vessels will form and deliver oxygen to the cells.  But that process can take a few weeks.

DRI researchers are working to bridge this gap. They have developed a technique to provide immediate availability of oxygen within a BioHub, giving the islets this critical element at the time of transplant -- until they are able to develop their own network of blood vessels.

A recent DRI study demonstrated -- for the first time -- that oxygen can be delivered locally to islet cells using an oxygen-generating biomaterial.


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